Ramp it up!

May, 2015

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Earlier this week Jo-Ann and I went foraging for ramps in the forest belonging to my mother, just outside of the town of Osgoode. The property has been in my family for over 40 years and the 60 acres of mixed hardwood forest was lovingly cared for by my father up until he passed away 4 years ago.

Ramps are a bulb-forming perennial with light green leaves. Ramps (also known as wild garlic, or wild leeks) grow the forest in strongly rooted groups, just beneath the surface of the soil. They are a rare seasonal delicacy and are a protected species in many places, including Quebec. I am fortunate in that our ramps grow in abundance on private property where we are able to strictly manage the amount and frequency of harvesting.

Throughout Ontario, Quebec and the Eastern United States, ramps are celebrated with festivals.

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We returned to the shop at the end of a muddy, wet day, and proceeded to prepare the ramps to be pickled for for sale in our retail store.  We will use the bulb and stem in the pickles, and we will sauté the greens for inclusion in our Thursday fresh meal.

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Sautéed in butter, ramps are sweet, mild and extremely delicious. If you are lucky, you may be able to get fresh ramps at the local Farmer’s Markets for the next 3 or 4 weeks.

I brought home a handful to enjoy for dinner in a twist on:

Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Wild Ramps

Serves 4 to 6, unless you have a 16 year old boy in which case it serves 2 – 3.

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1 package dry spaghetti
 (I used gluten free pasta)
4 large eggs,
1 large bunch of ramps
250 grams bacon (I used Seed to Sausage’s garlic & Juniper) sliced thinly
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
or Pecorino (Canreg Station makes a nice one)
Freshly cracked black pepper, 
sea salt

Clean and trim the ramps. Separate the white bulbs from the green leaves. Slice the bulbs thinly and slice the greens into 1 inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook per instructions on the box, or until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté for about 3 minutes, or until the meat is crispy and golden and has rendered its fat. Remove the bacon and add the white parts of the ramps and some butter or olive oil if necessary. When softened and brown, turn off the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and half the cheese until well-combined.

Return the pan to medium heat and add the ramp greens and the bacon. Add ½ cup of the hot pasta water and toss in the drained spaghetti while it is still hot. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg mixture, stirring quickly until the eggs thicken. The residual heat will cook the eggs but work quickly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. If the sauce seems too thick, thin it out with a little bit more of the pasta water.

Season liberally with freshly cracked black pepper and remaining cheese. Taste for seasoning; depending on the kind of pork used, it may not need any salt. Serve immediately.

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