Ramps are wild leeks, native to the forests of eastern United States and along with asparagus, they’re one of the first edible plants to pop up in spring. They don’t last long, so you have to get your fill in the few short weeks they’re available, which to my mind makes them even more delicious. Kind of like garlicky green onions, they’re heavenly when sautéed in bacon fat (readers of a certain age will remember the Maxwell House coffee can of bacon grease, sink side, at grandma’s house.) In my mind they conjure images of cement block church basements with row upon row of electric roasters loaded with ramps of all iterations including ramps’n’taters, ramp pie or ramp salad all for $3 on a paper plate.
Lucky for us, professional foragers are on the hunt for ramps at the first sign of spring so that we can make something delish from the forest floor. The first thing I made was Pizza with Ramps, Wild Mushrooms and Egg. It’s only natural that ramps and mushrooms, coming from the same place, would be tasty partners. And then a recipe for pickled ramps so you can preserve them beyond their short season, pairing them up with pork barbecue once entertaining moves outside.
Once you try them, you’ll look forward to ramp season and make the most of it just like I do. It used to be strawberries that shouted spring is here, but I say nothing says spring like ramps.
Ramp and Wild Mushroom Pizza
The ramps really shine in this earthy pizza. Cremini mushrooms are the perfect partner to go with these garlicky, oniony specimens foraged from the springtime forest. A little cheese and eggs on top makes this pizza special, whether serving it for dinner, an appetizer or a snack.
It’s that easy: Rolling or stretching the pizza dough thinly and then getting it in the oven quickly after topping it will result in a thinner crust. If you allow the pizza to sit for even 10 minutes after rolling it out, it will rise higher in the oven, resulting in a more “bready” pizza. So, if you prefer a cracker-like crust, work fast.
- 1-lb frozen pizza dough, thawed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 or 6 ramps, trimmed, stems thinly sliced and leaves cut into 2-inch pieces, separated
- 8-oz shiitake or a mix of wild mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- If you have a pizza stone, place it on the bottom rack and preheat oven to 450°F.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature while you prepare the toppings.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted and the skillet is hot, add the ramp stems and mushrooms to the pan along with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Sauté the vegetables until tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Roll or stretch out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16-in circle and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. Drizzle the oil over the dough and spread it around with your fingers. Spread the ramp/mushroom mixture evenly over the dough, scatter the ramp leaves and top with the mozzarella. Slide the dough onto a pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet and slide the pizza, still on the parchment, onto the heated pizza stone in the preheated oven. Bake for 7 minutes. (If you don’t have a pizza stone skip this step and just bake it on a parchment lined cookie sheet. It won’t be as crispy on the bottom and may take a few more minutes to bake but it will still be delish.)
- Slide the peel under the pizza to remove it from the oven and carefully crack the eggs on top then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Return to the oven and bake another 2 or 3 minutes or until the whites of the eggs are lightly set (a runny yolk is good as it creates a kind of sauce). Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.
In the glass: Let’s stick with an Italian theme and go with a Chianti Classico or Sangiovese.
Lucky is the person who pickles up a batch or two of ramps. You’ll be so happy to extend their season just a little longer and if you’re really crazy about ramps, go ahead and can them following general canning instructions. That way you can keep them longer than the simpler refrigerator pickle here. Wanna share? Maybe not! It’s that easy: Pickled ramps’ bright touch is amazing in salads and as a side with barbecued ribs, chicken or brisket.
- 1 quart water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1-lb ramps, trimmed and greens removed (save the green tops for your next stir fry)
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon whole mustard seed
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- Bring the water and salt to a boil over medium-high heat and add the ramps. Cook until crisp/tender, about 30 seconds and using a slotted spoon, transfer them to bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
- Drain and place the ramps in two clean 8-oz canning jars with airtight lids.
- Bring the vinegar, sugar, water, salt, mustard seed and celery seed to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar has melted, about 2 minutes. Pour the pickling liquid over the ramps and seal the jars.
- Cool and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Ramps are good to use after an overnight in the fridge.