If you’ve ever walked into a fancy restaurant in California during the spring-time, you have probably seen Ramps on the menu, complimenting your favorite main courses. These seasonal little nuggets of oniony goodness are basically wild leeks, which have recently found fame on the menus of fancy restaurants all over America due to their intoxicating aroma and good looks. Ramps have deep roots in Southern Appalachia where they are used in traditional recipes and in the past were used as a tonic to ward off the ailments of winter.
I have not heard of ramps growing in the wilds of California, but you can certainly buy them here at specialty grocery stores. Out here we seem to have this other variety of useless wild onions that pack no flavor and will take siege of your backyard given the chance (ask me how I know). I buy ramps at the Far West Fungi stall in the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace for $5 a bunch. I am sure those in Southern Appalachia would balk at the price, but let’s be real; this stuff is shipped across the country. If they were local, they would cost at least twice as much (har).
Ramps have a pungent garlicky-oniony smell and look much like a green onions. They are best served with foods from the same season such as King Salmon & morels. In the South, they are often fried with potatoes in bacon fat. In fact, ramps are so delicious that they are considered a threatened species in some places where they don’t grow as voraciously as they do in Appalachia. Maybe someday ramps will be as endangered as blue fin tuna due to demand. Real talk.