Ten weeks into working from home, Virginia has begun to cautiously reopen. I’m still nervous about being among large groups of people, but I decided the Farmers’ Market was safe enough.
It was well organized, and everyone there was very considerate about wearing masks, leaving space and being patient. The line to get in looked really long, but when there’s 6′ of space between people it moves fast!
As people left at one end, they would let more people in on the other. We were in search of rhubarb but apparently so was everyone else. When I showed up at 11am and inquired as to rhubarb one woman laughed at me and said, “dude, you gotta’ get here at 8:00 to get rhubarb!” Looks like rhubarb is not in my future.
I did, however, see a familiar and welcome sight, a woman who for years has sold wild mushrooms at the market. She always has a nice assortment and some days she’ll have something special and rare, like fresh truffles, or morels.
This time she did not let me down. She had ramps. Ramps are a wild leek, found only this time of year in high elevations of the east coast, which is to say, the Appalachian Mountains.
Back in the old days, as ramps came up through the forest floor, the mountain men of Appalachia used them to replenish vitamins and nutrients from a long winter. Ramps are credited with warding off scurvy for many a resident.
This treasured green is highly seasonal, growing only in the 2nd half of May, and highly regional, growing only in the eastern US at high elevations. They are wild and must be foraged, and they are also present on the menus of high-end restaurants. This of course leads to over-harvesting. Many people are now selling only the leaves, and not the bulbs. This clipping of the foliage lets the bulb remain in the ground to regenerate, thus making the harvesting more sustainable.
The ramp has a garlicky and onion-like fragrance and taste and is reported to be pungent. They also have a reputation for staying with the body with some pungent telltale signs for up to a couple of days. Best to share them with the whole family! One saying read said, “He who walks with ramps walks alone”
I also bought a bag of mixed wild mushrooms. They look so beautiful, and I think many find them intimidating in terms of how to use them, what kind they are, etc. I decided I would bring the mushrooms and ramps home and cook them together
You can use the foliage, stem, and bulb of the ramp. I just chopped it all like a scallion. For that matter you can use them just like you would a scallion.
I also chopped the mushrooms coarsely, making sure they were all approximately the same size so that they cook evenly.
Cooking them is pretty simple. I melted enough butter to cover the bottom of the skillet on med-high heat. I started with the ramps, but not for long, just a minute or so. Then I added the mushrooms and let them set long enough to begin browning. 1-2 minutes, and toss them every minute or so for 3-4 more minutes. I used only salt and pepper because I want the mushrooms and ramps to be the main flavor. I did, however, use a coarse, flaky salt which gives it a nice finish.
You could eat them all raw, so it’s not a question of being cooked like chicken, it’s just a flavor, texture and heat thing. You want a little browning, and them heated through. When they’re ready, kill the heat and squeeze a half lemon over them.
The flavor is amazing, earthy, rich, grassy, and bright from the lemon juice! The textures of all the different mushrooms create a really interesting bite. this was a treat that should be enjoyed all by itself, and not as the side dish to some other entree. It would be a great first course, a weekend lunch, or just a treat to enjoy whenever!
I didn’t use them all and tomorrow I plan to sauté the remaining ramps in a little butter, and truffle oil, and then add a couple beaten eggs for some decadent and fluffy scrambled eggs with some of my homemade sourdough bread.
Sure beats the Kind Bar I used to eat while walking to the metro on the way to the office!