Ramps (allium tricoccum), also known as spring onion, ramson, wild leek, wild garlic, or in French, ail sauvage and ail des bois - are an early spring vegetable native to eastern North America. A wild onion of the amaryllis family, this plant has broad, smooth leaves often with dark purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems, and a scallion-like stalk and bulb. The green leaves are milder in flavor than the bulb; the entire plant gives off distinctive garlic, onion-y odor. Ramps possess a unique taste, a cross between a strong scallion, garlic, and leek, hence their culinary appeal.
Ramps were highly prized by the American Indians in part because of their high vitamin content and blood-cleansing properties. The Cherokee boiled or fried the young plants; the Iroquois ate them, and both the Objibwa and Menominee dried ramps to be stored for winter months.
According to John Mariani, author of "The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink," the English word ramp comes from the word "rams," or "ramson," an Elizabethan dialect for the wild garlic. First mentioned in English print in 1530, the word ramp was used earlier by immigrants to the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Because they are one of the first plants to emerge in the spring, ramps are celebrated in many Appalachian festivals. In central Appalachia, ramps are fried with potatoes in bacon fat or scrambled with eggs and served with bacon, pinto beans, and cornbread. Ramps can also be used in soups and other foods in place of onions and garlic, or pickled, which is, of course, what I am going to do with them.
I go foraging and collect ramps on my own whenever I can, but you can often find them at your local Farmer's Market. There are numerous websites and articles with recipes for pickling these spring greens. I perused them all and then used my ‘pickling know-how’ keeping in mind my personal tastes, to create a brine I thought would enhance, not overwhelm their natural flavor. I chose rice wine vinegar because it is mild in taste, but a white wine vinegar would work just as well.
1 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Raw Sugar
1/4 Cup Honey
1/2 teaspoon each - Coriander, Mustard, and mixed Peppercorn Seeds
1 dried, crushed Bay Leaf
3 Allspice Seeds
1 Lb. Cleaned Ramps (leaves removed leaving just a touch of green)
Clean ramps and cut off green leaves. Set aside. ( I chop and freeze the greens to use later as seasoning in soup stocks or other dishes). Blanch in heavily salted water (approximately 45 seconds ) immediately immerse in ice water bath.
Prepare pickling brine by combining vinegar, water, sugar and honey. Bring to a boil. Once sugar is completely dissolved add spices and remove from heat.
Carefully pack blanched ramps into sterilized canning jar (for 1 pound I used a half liter container). Pour brine over ramps to 1/4 inch of rim. Seal.
Either place in refrigerator and use after they rest for 5 days OR follow your safe canning procedures and process in a Hot Water Bath for 10 minutes.