Before I begin, let’s first toss out an acknowledgment to the winter of 2013-14. A real brutal jerk of a season, but it put forth significant effort into making us all believe that we’d be stuck in a frozen hellscape for the rest of our days. Good job, good effort, winter. But lo! Spring has indeed sprung, as evidenced by our calendars, the very welcome bump in temperature, and — perhaps most significantly — the grand reemergence of RAMPS at our local greenmarkets.
My inter-office fervor over ramp season is something that, sadly, isn’t widely shared among my officemates. In fact, even in my wider circle of friends — among them many a foodie — the term is greeted with disinterest confusion, despite my noble attempts to excite them. I’ll spare you no further: ramps, known alternatively as spring onions or wild leeks, are an onion variant grown in the eastern part of North America. Their slender stalks taste like the perfect hybrid of onions and garlic (the sought-after ideal aromatic, IMHO) and their greens are bitter, earthy, and altogether incredibly piquant.
I could attempt to explain what ramps look like on my own, but I’m a millennial (subtext: lazy, jaded, addled by too much time on the Interwebs) and firmly believe that Wikipedia could describe them best. Take it away, Wikipedia!
“The ramp has broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. Both the white lower leaf stalks and the broad green leaves are edible. The flower stalk only appears after the leaves have died back, unlike the similar Allium ursinum, in which leaves and flowers can be seen at the same time. Ramps grow in close groups strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil.” (Wikipedia)
Now, all this may sound relatively unsophisticated — and, truthfully, really seems to resemble your run-of-the-mill scallion — but ramps bear a certain peculiar trait: they’re only available for, like, 3 weeks of each calendar year. Yes, indeed.
So, as a result of exclusivity alone, ramps have attained total celebrity status. Here for just a handful of spring weekends, peeking out from under unassuming shrubs in their market stalls, claimed only by those with a strong enough mental constitution to rise before 7 on a Saturday morning. They’re like the Salinger of vegetables: gracing us briefly with pronounced brilliance before disappearing without preamble, the only vegetable with an authentic air of je ne sais quoi.
Restauranteurs, chefs, critics, and bloggers go absolutely wild for them and, more often than not, contribute to their fleetingness. But, seeing as yesterday marked their first official appearance in New York, there might be a chance that some of you might be able to get your hands on a bunch. In case I didn’t get the point across, I highly recommend it. IT’S RAMP SEASON, Y’ALL. Go hunting. You won’t be disappointed.