Ramping Up For Spring: Recipe for Some Ramps

Allium tricoccum, better known as ramps in these parts, are officially in vogue. Though native to the Eastern seaboard, the oniony little vegetables are getting attention as far away as San Francisco and Seattle. Chefs are introducing them in creative cuisine, finding ways to serve these newly trendy delicacies in fine restaurants.
Bo Taylor, archivist at The Museum of the Cherokee Indian and longtime ramp lover, isn’t as interested in gourmet ramps as he is in cooking up a “mess of them” and enjoying them with friends and family. Heralded as the first spring vegetable, gathering and cooking them is an Appalachian tradition. And according to Taylor, ramps aren’t just good eating, they’re a healthful spring tonic, one that cleanses the blood and chases away colds and flu.
The season for ramps begins as early as mid March and continues into May, depending on the weather. For Taylor, the earlier the ramp is dug, the better. He prefers to rake the frost off his patch (a location he keeps secret) and look for the “whites,” the bulb or onion-looking part of the ramp that Taylor considers the true delicacy. He insists, though, that ramps aren’t to be dug up completely. “You need to cut the ramp bulb, leaving a slight part of it attached to the roots for next year’s growth.”
As for the smell, according to Taylor and John Stehling, owner and chef at Asheville’s Early Girl Eatery, ramps are like onions, or garlic; they have the unfortunate aftereffect of making you, well, odorous. So, it’s probably best to follow the advice of Taylor and Stehling on this: If you’re going to eat ramps, just enjoy and accept the short-lasting consequences.
With that in mind, here’s a recipe from Stehling, which is occasionally served as a daily special at Early Girl.
Ramp Cornbread Stuffing
1/2 Tbs. butter 
1 cup celery, diced 
1 cup green peppers, diced 
2 cups ramps, diced 
1 Tbs. garlic, minced 
1 tsp. salt 
1/4 tsp. pepper 
5 cups crumbled cornbread 
3 eggs 
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock 
1 cup heavy cream 
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 450°F. In a pan, sauté butter, celery, peppers, ramps, and garlic until tender. Season vegetables with salt and pepper, and remove pan from heat. Mix in the remaining ingredients, and place in a greased baking pan. Cook for 45 minutes, or until liquid is gone. Serve with pork or turkey.

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