My work with the Market doesn’t require hardships like getting up on cold spring mornings to see what’s in season. I can and do tweet and write from the comfort of my bed. My colleagues are great about txting and emailing me what is new, fresh and special. And if they’re bitter about me being warm and dry, well, they’re either unfailingly professional or there isn’t an emoticon for ‘get out of bed’.
This time it was Anna who txtd, letting me know Kaleng’s Produce had ramps.
I txted Anna back to ask what ramps were. Due to the constraints of the 160 character format, Anna forwent the details, opting for the 8 letter description, Wild Leeks. Later in person, she went into detail, pulling out the descriptors; tender, like garlicky onions, ramp people are cultish about them (which is more of a value judgment than a description, but I understand the enthusiasm).
I possess an autodidact’s temperament, when confronted with something new, my response is not one of defeat but to go quickly to the bookcase. Also, this might be the only time I have any inclination to move quickly. The advantage of having food books and cookbooks stacked two deep on the bookcase that takes up the most of the north wall of my home, means quicker than you can say wikipedia, I can do research and by research I mean double sourced from books (No offense to browsing the internet: Still love ya).
I learned about 85% of the crop is truly wild, ramps grow in clumps under deciduous trees. In Stalking the Wild Asparagus, my polar opposite in temperament: outdoorsman, adventurer and Grape-Nut’s pitchman, Euell Gibbons recommends ramps in salads and soups and finds them delicious. In a different volume, an encyclopedia with a nutritional bent, tells me ramps are high in vitamin C and are ‘good for cleaning the blood’. I have no idea what blood cleaning is, why it’s good and not dangerous or how ramps help achieve this. (I was able to confirm the abundance of vitamin C in ramps from a second and third source – There’s enough to keep the scurvy at bay in any citrus-free zone: Pre-Columbian epochs, Cormac McCarthy novels, Tudor warships or whatever the circumstances.)
With food, it’s never enough to read about it, I need to know how it tastes, smells, looks – I brought home a bunch from Temptress Truffles, they were scallion thin at the base before widening into a purple tinted middle with leaves that flanged out at the top. Eaten raw, the garlic taste was a little too much for me, but the ramps were much better after sautéing – butter, salt and heat tamed the flavors to deliciousness. I don’t think I’m going to join the ramp cult and my blood didn’t feel any cleaner, but in the every spring, I have a new tool I can and will use in my kitchen arsenal. Look for ramps at Kaleng, Temptress and other vendors throughout April.