Ramps are leeks that grow in the wild. They are very difficult to cultivate, which is part of their appeal and mystique (think truffles). Ramps are one of the first spring vegetables to appear in farmers markets and chefs’ menus after a winter of tubers and citrus. They essentially taste like a very garlicky leek or scallion.

If you aren’t yet familiar with ramps, that’s cool. Ramps are a source of much pleasure for many, and some poopy snobbery for some. Some people go crazy for them, which means some people think they are overrated. To me, this whole discussion is a little silly. But every spring, many of us look forward to ramp season because these pungent little members of the onion family are only around for a short while. I’d rather leave the debating to others, and get to cooking them.

What Do Ramps Look Like?

They look somewhat like scallions, but with a more bulbous bottom. Ramps have nice broad and long green leaves on top of slim white stalks with a plump base. There is sometimes a bit of purple on the slim stalk above the bottom.

Fresh ramps on table.

Where Do Ramps Grow?

Ramps grow in the Eastern part of the U.S., up and down the east coast, and then all the way west to Minnesota and Missouri. Canada and North Carolina kind of border the part of the country where ramps can be found. They tend to grow near wet areas, rivers, marshes, and such, near deciduous trees.

How Do You Harvest or Pick Ramps?

Once you found out where they grow, you’re most of the way there. Don’t be tempted to just try and pull one out of the ground. You really need to dig down around the root and then ease it out of the dirt. This is easier near a source of water where the earth tends to be looser, or after a rain. But if you try and tug it out, you will likely break it and leave the root in the ground. Some say — ok, that replenishes the ramps for the next year, but I think of harvesting responsibly and getting the whole shebang out of the ground.

Young boy cleaning freshly harvested ramps.

Ramp Sustainability

Ramp over-harvesting threatens to be a problem, so if you are lucky enough to find them, don’t clean out the whole patch — leave some bulbs behind so they can re-propagate. I personally only take about 5% of what the land near me offers, and every year there are more and more and more.

Some people advocate for only picking the leaves of the ramps and leaving the roots in the earth. In my experience, the ramps have increased year after year, so I stick to harvesting the whole ramp but taking only a small amount of what’s growing.

Pile of fresh ramps in spring

Ramps are essentially wild scallions, wonderful harbingers of spring and learning how to find them and then seeing all the things you can make with them is very exciting.

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How to Cook Ramps

Ramps can be roasted, grilled, sautéed, and also used raw in dishes like salads or pesto. They can be used in risotto and other rice dishes, sauces, pastas and potato dishes, eggs, and on top of crostini, just for a few examples. Use both the white bulbs and the green leaves (the leaves are milder in flavor).

Their flavor is very strong when uncooked, so use judiciously. They can be prepared whole or sliced or chopped, similar to scallions or leeks, or really any member of the onions family.

Pile of freshly picked spring ramps on countertop

7 Ramps Recipes to Make This Spring

So now we know more about ramps. And here are a bunch of recipes to put them to good use!

Pasta Salad with Chicken, Green Olives, & Ramp Vinaigrette / Photo by Kerri Brewer / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Pasta Salad with Chicken, Green Olives, and Ramp Vinaigrette

This pasta salad is jammed with chicken, so is it a pasta salad with chicken, or a chicken salad with pasta? Either way, it's delicious. I love to bring this to any type of potluck meal in the spring.

Green Olive and Ramp Tapenade / Katie Workman themom100.com

Green Olive and Ramp Tapenade

Tapenades, like pestos, and can be used in so many ways to spark up a meal.  This one makes the most of ramps during their brief season, and briny green olives provide the base. Add a spoonful to sautéed mushrooms, smear some under the skin of a chicken before roasting the bird, use it on crostini, add to salad dressings and more!

Pasta and Salmon Salad with Ramp Dressing

Pasta and Salmon Salad with Ramp Dressing

A springtime pasta perfect for a picnic, buffet, or potluck. You can use poached salmon, grilled salmon, pan-seared salmon…any simply cooked salmon is perfect. Keep this dressing in mind for other pasta salads as well.

Ramp Chimichurri Sauce / Photo by Kerri Brewer / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Ramp Chimichurri Sauce

Chimichurri sauce is a very classic Argentinian sauce, usually is made with parsley and garlic, often other herbs, and with a splash of something acidic like vinegar or lemon juice.  In this case, ramps are the perfect stand-in for both the parsley (all those lush green leaves) and the garlic (those intense wild scallion bulbs).

Simple Ramp Pasta / Photo by Kerri Brewer / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Simple Ramp Pasta

This might be the first dish to make when you get hold of a bunch of ramps, either through your own labor, or via a farmers market, and you want to make something with them stat, without a whole lot of thought or time.  This is the most popular ramp recipe on the site, and once you make it, you'll see why!

Spring Ramp and Pea Risotto

Spring Ramp and Pea Risotto

This risotto highlights garlicky ramps against the neutral creamy backdrop of risotto. Little pops of peas enhance the springtime nature of this lovely recipe.

Pasta with Ramps, Edamame, and Sugar Snap Peas in a Light Parmesan Cream Sauce / Photo by Kerri Brewer / Katie Workman / themom100.com

Pasta with Ramps, Edamame, and Sugar Snap Peas in a Light Parmesan Cream Sauce

A beautiful, elegant and easy springtime pasta recipe loaded with ramps and vegetables. The creamy, nutty sauce pulls everything together, and truly this feels like something you would be moved to order at a restaurant and think about the next day.

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