It is ramp season y’all! For the past couple of weeks I have scoured nearly every single grocery store and/or market in the area for the delicious wild leeks and every single time I left disappointed. I went to 2 different Whole Foods locations, Fairway, Tarry Market, Mrs. Green’s, and then even called Purdy’s Fish and the Farmer farm shop! And while I did find some awesome green garlic at Tarry Market there was simply no sign of ramps. My annual searches were considerably easier in Virginia but this past weekend I was determined not to let the challenge get me down. Instead of waiting on local purveyors to come through, I read up on the art of foraging and set out into the woods of Westchester County to find ramps myself (with the help of the husband, which was very nice, because he pretty much hates ramps).
Now, normally I am not a particularly outdoorsy person so I had a number of apprehensions going into this excursion.
- I had no idea if I would actually be able to find ramps and the whole search could end up being a massive waste of time.
- What if what I thought were ramps were actually lily of the valley? As a total newbie to foraging, I didn’t want to make a deadly mistake. I’ve seen Breaking Bad; I’m well aware of what those lilies can do.
- Signage in the area suggested coyotes may be running amok and I am terrified of wildlife.
- I currently have a broken toe which, obviously, makes things, like hiking, a bit more challenging.
Anywho – long story short, I am one lucky and happy lady this week. Probably 5 minutes into the hike I spotted some ramps off of a creek bed. Seriously, it was pretty ridiculous – my husband and I could still see the parking lot. I crushed one of the leaves in my hand to double check that it had a garlic/onion scent (lily of the valley has no scent until it flowers) and boom, it was totally a ramp! After some initial squealing, I realized they were everywhere. So many ramps I could’ve burst into tears. I took only what I needed, which was much less than the pound I acquired last year. I also made sure to not take the bulbs to safeguard regrowth next year.
I still haven’t been able to shut up about the whole thing. It was just SO EXCITING. That said, I don’t think I’m going to be foraging again anytime soon, I really have little interest in it – well that’s not completely true, I wouldn’t mind looking for morels. But if I don’t get back out there this was definitely an awesome experience I will always remember.
For the pesto
2 cups ramp leaves
1 cup parsley
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 lemon, juiced
⅓ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup sunflower seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
For the baked eggs
1 cup spinach
4-5 ramps (leaves, stems, and stalks)
1 green garlic stalk, chopped
¼ cup feta, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes and Piment d’Espelette to taste
For the pesto
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Let the pesto sit in the fridge for a couple of hours so the flavors can meld before serving. I like to keep it simple and spread it on a baguette.
For the baked eggs
Preheat the broiler. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet or a cast iron baking dish over medium-low heat. Then, sauté the green garlic for a few minutes until it is fragrant. Throw the spinach and ramps into the mix, letting the leaves wilt a bit. After a minute or two, remove the pan from the heat and create two small holes among the greens. Crack the eggs into each one of the holes and sprinkle feta on top. Place the pan in the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the egg whites are set (the timing depends on how hot your broiler gets). When serving, finish off the dish with crushed red pepper and a dash of Piment d’Espelette. Because feta can be pretty salty, I typically don’t bother adding any additional salt.