By Leslie Kelly

Ramp season is fairly short, with these wild leeks making an appearance from early spring until early summer. Their assertive flavor might remind you a little of horseradish, which is why they are considered a zesty tonic after a long winter of root veggies. Here are a few ways to cook with these spring onions, most often found at farmers markets and road side produce stands. But first...

What are Ramps?

Part of the allium family, ramps are also known as wild leeks and ramson. They grow in the East and South, with the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia being Ground Zero for this distinctive form of onion. There's even an annual Ramp Festival during the short season, which lasts from March until June. Ramps look a little like scallions or green onions, but they have a strong garlic fragrance and flavor, and a kick.

These wild spring onions are delicious! Photo by Leslie Kelly

1. Keep it Simple

No need to hide the full-throttle flavor, especially if you're already an onion lover. Slice them like scallions and sprinkle into salads, scrambled eggs, over the top of tacos. Toss the raw ramps in olive oil and sear in a grill pan or over the fire of a barbecue. Douse them in a mix of slightly sweetened vinegar and serve alongside roasted meats.

2. Make a Ramp Infused Oil

Snip off the tender greens on top and simmer in a cup of olive oil for 10 minutes. Cool and puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. Store in the fridge and use as a base for vinaigrettes or toss with pasta and finish with shredded parmesan.

Simmering ramp greens in oil helps extract the strong flavors of those wild leeks. Photo by Leslie Kelly

3. Pair with Potatoes

The time-honored combo of onions and taters gets an upgrade when bacon arrives in the picture. The ramps are sauteed in the pan after the bacon crisps up and the mixture is poured over sliced potatoes before they're popped into the oven to bake.

Ramp Potatoes. Photo by KGora.

4. The Best Kind of Onion Dip

Forget the packaged soup mix. These onions bring on the big flavor when combined with cream cheese and mayo. This dip might be a bit thick for chips, so spread it on crostini.

Where to Buy Ramps

If you don't live in an area where ramps are prolific, it can be tough to find them. However, availability is becoming more widespread as chefs and home cooks have discovered the joy of this unusual ingredient. Ask at a farmers market, or check with a specialty supermarket like Whole Foods. Though you might not see ramps on the shelf, sometimes, in-demand items are kept under wraps.

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