Ramps from Roscoe a Wild Hit at Greenmarket

April 18, 2011 at 2:22 pm 1 comment

Ramps from Roscoe

© Photo by Margarida Correia. Ramps, or wild leeks, were going for $3 a bunch at the Union Square Greenmarket in NYC. Mountain Sweet Berry Farm was selling them at a quick clip on Saturday.

It wasn’t the fingerling potatoes — or any of the crops it grew — that drew mobs of people to its farm stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday.

What people clamored for were ramps, wild leeks that Mountain Sweet Berry Farm foraged in the woodlands of Roscoe, the hamlet in Sullivan County where the farm is based.

It’s the first wild thing that grows in the forest and the first sign of spring, said the farm’s affable owner, Rick Bishop, of the sought-after edible plant.

Customers snatched multiple bunches at a time, paying $3 per bunch. The scallion look-alikes have a short season, lasting only five to six weeks.

The prolific ramps create a “magic carpet in the forest,” noted the farm’s field hand, Chris (he gave only his first name).  Five weeks of foraging them wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what the forest provides.

Ramps — which are popular in country cooking, particularly in Tennessee — are a substitute for leeks or onions in any recipe, said Chris.

Ramps are available even in the wilds of New York City.  Steve Brill, a naturalist who leads foraging tours in New York City parks and other areas, says that urban foragers can find ramps in Alley Pond, Bronx River, Van Cortland, and Cunningham Parks.

Even though ramps grow only in the spring, their bulbs can be harvested throughout the year, Brill explained. Both the leaves and the bulb of the plant can be used raw or cooked.

“Underground, you’ll find white bulbs, usually clustered, which are edible spring, summer, and fall (plus mild winters),” Brill writes on his web site.  He collects just the leaves in the spring, as the bulbs at that time of year are still too small.

“Whether you use the leaves or the bulbs, this is simply the best-tasting member of the entire onion family, wild or commercial,” he writes.

But watch your breath, both Brill and Chris advised.

“After I opened a food container containing a salad with chopped ramps on the Long Island Railroad, the conductor nearly threw me off the train,” Brill wrote in an e-mail message.

For ramp recipes for guacamole and tomato catsup, go to Brill’s web site and click on “wild plant recipes.”  For other recipes, click here and here.

(Word has it that the New York Times will run a big piece on ramps on Wednesday.)

Entry filed under: Farmers Market, Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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