Perseverance paid off this weekend. We came to the woods prepared this time, bringing a shovel along to coax the wild leeks out of their loamy home.
Aren't they just the prettiest things? These are fresh from a quick washing under the hose. We only harvested a few, as we wanted to taste them but also hoped to avoid the aftermath. Ramps are legendary for their odoriferous effects on those who eat them and I do, after all, sit elbow to elbow with my coworkers.
Already they were heavily scenting the air with their wild onion/garlic perfume, and I began to have second thoughts.
Back in the kitchen, I steamed my ramps a bit before cooking, which is supposed to reduce the smell. Then I sliced them thinly and sauteed them in a little butter.
Purists would be done at this point, piling those fried ramps on a plate and digging in. Given the pungency of these puppies, I can't imagine how anyone could do that.
Following an online recipe, I stirred mine into a polenta, adding only sea salt and a little pepper. I spread the polenta thinly in a pan and left it in the fridge overnight - tightly, tightly covered.
*Note added April 25. Here's the recipe, from Martha Stewart's website: Ramp Polenta.
And for supper tonight, I fried thin squares of the wild leek polenta in a nonstick pan brushed with a little oil. I let them get golden brown and crisp on the outside, and served them with grilled salmon in dill butter, asparagus, and spinach salad with just a few fresh leek greens mixed in.
The polenta was awesome. If anything, I think I'd be a little bolder next time around, adding a few more leeks to it and maybe some of last season's dried tomatoes. The greens gave a nice onion-y bite to the salad, too.
We may find we have a bit more personal space than usual tomorrow, but what the hey. Totally worth it.
*P.S. Lifeshighway asks where ramps grow. Nearly all are harvested from the wild. They grow in deciduous forests in the eastern half of the USA, from Canada to the deep South. They are only available for a few weeks in the spring. Attempts at cultivation have not been very successful, but if anyone wants some seeds I'll be happy to send you some in the fall. Here's a nice article about them from NC University: Cultivation of Ramps.
*P.P.S I think this is going to have to double as my Nature Notes entry this time around.
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