Monday, April 19, 2010

The Sweet Smell of Success

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.

Harvesting Ramps

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.

Fresh Ramps

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.

Sauteed Ramps

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.

Polenta with Wild Leeks

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.
Click here for more Nature Notes entries.


lifeshighway said...

I will have to look for wild leeks. Do they grow every where in the US? My husband would really like playing with them.

Caron said...

Well those surprised me because they don't look anything like my leeks, which were also bursting with oniony juices, so I imagine I know what you're talking about. I'm glad the polenta was so good. It's the little things!

E.M. said...

That looks so delicious! I doubt I'll be finding wild leeks where I live, but I'm intrigued at trying them out now.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Looms so yummy !! I Would love to have this !! Very nice post !!

Rosidah Abidin said...

Wonderful post! The leeks look so fresh and even yummier after being cooked. Have a great day.

Johnny Nutcase said...

yum, they look tasty - and with polenta and asparagas - two of my favorite foods!

eileeninmd said...

Yum! It does sounds like a delicious meal.

Anonymous said...

i will have to go and see what i can find. i am drooling here..michelle

Rebecca said...

Mmm, yum. I think I feel like cooking something up now...

Nicole said...

Those look delicious!
And polenta is something I haven't tried yet. Will need to look up some recipe, it looks great :)

EG Wow said...

I have recently seen ramps in a wooded area near me. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to go for a walk later today. :)

MyMaracas said...

Nice to see there are other adventurous folks willing to forage for food. It's an oddly rewarding experience.

I'll add the polenta recipe to the post, in case you want it.

Sallyacious said...

That sounds DELICIOUS.