Black Trumpet Mushroom

Black Trumpet Mushroom

Sunday, June 15, 2014

For the love of Ramps

Young ramps, April 18th
Welcome to the 2014 mushroom season. May the rains be plentiful and the fungus abundant.

My total morel take this year was zero, which is only 3-4 below average so I'm not all that broken up about it. I know its different in the midwest and elsewhere but here in the Northeast morels are scarce. Ramps on the other hand...

For some reason Ramp fever had eluded me in the past. I noticed them but I was too distracted by the grand snipe, I mean morel, hunt. But this year there's a place nearby I frequently go for dog walks that's covered with them. So I pulled a few wondering what all the fuss was about. 

Well it didn't take long before I was absolutely hooked. Ramps - all of them, right down to the leaf tips - went in everything I cooked. The smell is of a freshly pulled ramp is intoxicating; the cold, moist dirt and sharp scent have captured the essence of springtime for me. The fact that they're the first fresh edible you see after the long winter months makes them even more coveted. 

Identifying: If you're looking for Ramps they're really hard to miss because in early April they're about the only green thing you'll see in the forest. If you need anything more to go on look for red stems on the young ones and a pungent garlicky smell, its hard to go wrong really. 

Gathering: Early on the roots are strong and its hard to get the bulb without digging around the plant. Later in the season you can loosen it up with a few pulls to the left and right and it'll will pop right out. The bulb will be larger too.

When: Here in upstate New York I was finding them from early April until early June, but we had a cooler start to summer and I suspect it was an especially long ramp season this year. 

Ramp pesto: Ramps including leaves if they're still fresh, olive oil, salt, walnuts (pine nuts, pecans, your choice), process to taste. Easy peasy, lasts a long time in the fridge, and tastes fantastic. 

I'm obliged to add that you should gather ramps responsibly. Take no more than 5% of a particular patch because they take years to grow back. I've heard that if you don't pull the entire bulb out they'll grow back next season but I haven't had that confirmed, anyone know? 

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