At the market | Ramps (Ramp pesto)


I get excited about strawberries in June, quinces in October, and clementines at Christmas. So naturally, some years ago when I discovered ramps, the very first greens to appear at farmer’s markets here in spring, I talked about them a lot. Few of my family and friends in Europe knew ramps, and I somewhat precipitously made the connection with ‘ail des ours‘ in French and ‘bärlauch‘ in German. For years I’ve been talking about ramps, you know, ail des ours, bärlauch.

Well, Wikipedia has just informed me that I was wrong. Ramps are Allium tricoccum, and they are native to America, while the French and German (and English) ‘bear garlic’ is Allium ursinum. They are closely related but not the same thing. So the ramps we foraged in Haute Savoie last spring were not actually ramps, which explains why they felt different. If my memory serves me well the leaves were a little harsher, the taste a little coarser. In any case, that answers the question of their origin: ramps are Northern American. They are foraged and it is commonly assumed that, like wild mushrooms, they cannot be cultivated, but this appears to be a myth.

Ramps are sometimes called ransom (the common name of the European allium), but also wild leek, wood leek, or wild garlic, which gives a good idea of their taste, unmistakably in the onion/garlic family.

I’ve baked ramps with potatoes into very good and very pretty gratins; for Easter I tossed a potato salad with ramp pesto; just yesterday I made a ramp risotto with rosé wine that wasn’t half bad; ramps can also be woven into egg nests for breakfast; they can even be pickled. The pleasures are many, but the season is short — take advantage!


Ramp pesto

I started out with saenyc’s Wild Ramp Pesto on Food52. I found that raw ramps made the pesto too garlicky, while blanching them all made it too mellow, so I added a few raw ramps to give the pesto just the right kick. I also reduced the amount of walnuts and parmigiano and added parsley for a more vibrant taste.

1 bunch (about 28 to 30) ramps

2-3 sprigs parsley

5 whole walnuts

1/3 cup (20 g) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

1/3 cup (100 ml) good extra virgin olive oil

2 tsps lemon juice

Good pinch sea salt

3-4 grinds black pepper


Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Prepare another bowl with ice water.

Trim off the roots of the ramps, rub off any loose skins around the bulbs, and wash the ramps in cold water. Wash the parsley and cut off most of the stems.

Set aside 2 to 3 of the smaller, more tender ramps, and chop them coarsely. Blanch all the others in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the blanched ramps to the ice water. Take them out and squeeze them to remove excess water.

In a blender or food processor, purée the ramps (blanched and raw), the parsley, walnuts, and parmiggiano, pouring in a steady drizzle of olive oil. Blend thoroughly to form a paste. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend again, taste, and adjust seasoning.

Use as you would any other pesto: with pasta, potato salad, smeared on bruschetta and topped with fresh goat cheese, etc…

Note: As is, this pesto will keep just one or two days. To increase its longevity, add some olive oil and/or freeze.


Related posts

Spaghetti with ramp pesto, walnuts, and parmigiano

At the market | Rhubarb (Rhubarb compote)

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9 Responses to “At the market | Ramps (Ramp pesto)”

  1. Nat Says:

    I started collecting wild garlic from our school playground in Devon 10 years ago. Introduced it to my Y1 class who loved it and picked some every day for me. We all got used to the smell but it kept the other teachers well away from the classroom. We made cream cheese and wild garlic dip…almost all of them loved it!

  2. 2peasandapot Says:

    cool post. Thanks! we’re running out of ideas for that mountain of ramps at the market.

  3. Oui, Chef Says:

    What a gorgeous green this is, just lovely. I like the idea of a few raw ones added in for a kick.

    • valerie Says:

      Thanks, Steve. I think the look and color of ramps is largely to blame for their success…

  4. Karen Says:

    The ramp pesto is quite amazing. I had some of the delicious potato salad with ramp pesto Valérie made for Easter lunch and I loved this new taste. I imagine ramps have remarkable health properties too. The variety called “ail d’ours” here in France help the body detoxify heavy metals. Nature is astonishing isn’t it?

    • valerie Says:

      How great, not only are they delicious but very healthy too. One more reason to love ramps! Merci!

  5. baconbiscuit212 Says:

    Your ramp pesto looks wonderful!

    Yes, I learned the same thing about the difference between ramps and bear’s garlic this year. Related, but not the same. It’s funny these different names for different things.

    I tend to encounter it the most often with cuts of meat, actually. Those can be quite different.

    In any case, thanks for the link back! I will be making this pesto soon! Because soon there will be no more ramps till next year! So fleeting, yet so wonderful . . .

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