So what exactly is this elusive onion that’s taken the culinary world by storm? A perennial wild leek, the ramp has broad, edible green leaves and a tender stalk and bulb with a purplish tinge, similar to a scallion in taste and texture. They can be found growing in groups in forested areas throughout much of the U.S and Southern Canada, and are one of the first edible plants to pop out of the ground after a long, cold winter, making them a surefire harbinger of spring. But their season is especially short… the fragrant little onions are gone for good by mid-to-late May.
So what to do with a bounty of ramps if you happen to find them in the woods, or more likely, during a jaunt to the local Greenmarket? If they haven’t already been cleaned (a good sign, by the way), peel off the papery skin, use cold water to wash off the dirt, and use a sharp knife to remove the roots, leaving the entire bulb intact. Dry them carefully with a towel to remove all the water, then bundle them together to help retain moisture and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Essentially, you can substitute ramps for any recipe that calls for onions or garlic (they also make a mean pesto). But if you really want to wow your friends with ramps this season, try this studded sausage from The Vanderbilt in Prospect Heights, topped with a snap pea slaw and — glory be! — even more pickled ramps.