If you’ve never eaten ramps before, you are not alone.
Even though these wild onions are native to the area (along with the rest of the eastern U.S. and Canada), they’ve only recently arrived at farmers’ markets and restaurants focusing on local ingredients.
When you see, or smell them for the first time, you may initially think they are garlic-y scallions, until you notice that their edible leaves are smooth and flat, similar to tulip leaves. Ramps go by many names — wild garlic, wild leeks, spring onions, and ramsons — and as they suggest, they taste and smell very much like garlic, but with a texture more like a leek or scallion. And since they taste like garlic, they can be used in any recipe where garlic (or onion) makes sense.
Peninsula’s annual ramp festival, Ramp Up Peninsula, is pungent proof of this point. In years’ past, festivalgoers could find ramps in sauces, used burger and sandwich toppings, baked into breads, covered in chocolate, and even as Bloody Mary garnishes.
While our relationship with the ramp in Northern Ohio is relatively new, some Appalachian towns in West Virginia and Virginia have hosted ramp festivals for decades. Richwood, West Virginia’s Feast of the Ramson offers ramp salsas, ramp jelly, pickled ramps, and ramps fried in bacon fat and served with beans, bacon, ham, and cornbread. Elkins, West Virginia’s Ramps and Rail Festival includes ramperoni rolls, ramp chili, ramp risotto with shrimp, and ramp burgers.
Keep your eyes peeled the next time you’re at the farmers’ market, and consider a bunch of ramps for your next recipe. Or head to a local festival and eat your heart’s content — just be sure to bring an after-dinner mint.
The B.A.R. Sandwich
Bunch of ramps, chopped (green and white parts)
Four slices bacon
Cream cheese (optional)
Cook bacon in a deep pan until nice and crispy, then drain on paper towels, leaving a good 1–2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan.
Sauté ramps in the bacon grease over low to medium heat until cooked down a little and tender.
Toast bread and, if using, spread both sides with cream cheese. Spoon sautéed ramps on bottom slice and top with avocado slices and bacon.