I grew up in the suburbs of northern California. You would think that this would have been a great place to experience hyper-regional cuisine and to learn about foraging but in the suburbs it was just rows of houses. It wasn’t until my husband and I moved to Northern Iowa and bought rural acreage that I really got to understand what grows in the wild.
After living on our land for a year we decided to start working on some landscaping and gardening. By a weird coincident it had just started hearing about ramps and saw a recipe for Ramp Tartar Sauce in Sean Brock’s Heritage cookbook.
The way our property is set up is that it has gentle rolling slopes, large flat areas, a babbling brook, and an oak tree forest. We got the idea to clear a walking path through the forest so we could better enjoy our space. As we were clearing it out my husband spotted broad leaf clusters all throughout the forest floor. Being that it was early spring these stood out as they are almost the only green this time of year. Upon closer inspection he discovered that they were indeed native wild ramps!
Before pulling any he did a little research and discovered ramps need special consideration before harvesting… What’s interesting about ramps is that it takes about 7 years for the plant to fully mature. So when you are harvesting them you need to ensure you are leaving enough to grow and spread. It’s also a good idea if you can mark where and when you have harvested a particular area so that you don’t keep over picking it. With this knowledge in hand I was leery about pulling any and curious if they would be at the farmers markets or at the co-ops we shop. Sure enough they were but the real surprise was the cost!
After seeing this we decided to pick enough for one recipe from our woods to see what the hype is all about. Wow! Were we in for a treat. This allium is in the onion, garlic, leek family and boy does it pack a lot of flavor in such a small plant.
I set out in making Pickled Ramps from Sean Brock’s Heritage. This recipe would allow me to then make his Ramp Tartar Sauce. If you have read my food philosophy then you know I will always attempt to make my own condiments before buy commercially made versions. I had been looking for a good tartar sauce recipe.
After making the pickled ramps I then waited until I could come up with a good way to make classic fish and chips. Recently I bought Breville’s Smart Fryer. This made amazing fried fish and perfect french fries! Having waited nearly a year to try out my pickled ramps was torture at times but boy was it worth it! The tarter sauce was truly something special. I was worried that the 3 pints of pickled ramps wouldn’t last long but when I made the tartar sauce I discovered that one pint will make about 3 batches and each batch makes about 16 ounces!
Now knowing that one harvest can last as long as it does I am excited to have pickled ramps in my pantry for years to come without decimating there ability to grow.