This is the time of year in which winter and spring seasons merge. We’re finishing up last year’s beets, while we are jumping with joy at the sight of fresh green spring produce. One of the first signs of nature reawakening are ramps, also known as wild garlic or wild leeks. The city of Chicago is even supposed to have been named after a patch of stinky onions, that grew in abundance in the swampy lands. It’s a vegetable native to the US and a true heirloom.
In the US most of the ramps available are wild foraged. And as the bulbs are considered to be very precious, they are often completely dug out of the soil vs. just harvesting the leaves. This intense foraging is taking its toll on the wild ramps – there are some areas in the US, where their natural presence is at the brink of extinction through over harvesting.
Which is why I prefer to only use the leaves in my cooking, and I choose to buy from sustainably cultivated origin as opposed to wild foraged one. Hopefully the increased demand for ramps from Chefs and home cooks alike will lead to more farmers to dedicate some space to this stinky and oh so delicious one! Am I contradicting myself now, given that I always preach that commercial cultivation has killed the varieties’ flavors and that its the culprit why tomatoes do not taste good anymore etc pp? It’s all about sustainable cultivation, in harmony with the land and in respect to the varieties’ identity and characteristics. So, yes, commercial cultivation of native varieties and of heirloom varieties can be done.
Without further a-do, a recipe that merges the seasons, and uses our American Persimmon Hot Sauce as a seasoning. Another native variety of the USA full of heirloom flavors!
Ingredients (for 2 portions)
4 oz tagliatelle pasta
3/4 cup black beluga lentils, cooked
1/2 bulb fennel, with fronds, diced
5 ramp leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
(1) Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. When water boils, add salt and pasta and cook for about 10 minutes/
(2) Heat a heavy frying pan, line with Olive oil and add fennel and a dash of salt for quick sautee over medium heat.
(3) After about 5 minutes, add the cooked lentils and turn heat to low.
(4) Add a small ladle of pasta water to the veggies and drain the pasta.
(5) Add pasta to veggies, season with American Persimmon Hot Sauce, sprinkle with chopped ramps and mix well.
(6) Serve and enjoy!