Celebrate the Season
If you have the good fortune to come upon some garlic scapes or ramps at a farmers’ market, be sure to give them a try. What are they, you might ask, unless you grew up in Appalachia or know how to stalk the wild things. Here’s a brief overview:
Difference Between Ramps and Scapes
Ramps are also called spring onions, wild leeks, wood leeks, or wild garlic. They are sought by foragers in early spring. Ramps are easily identified by their broad, smooth, light green leaves. Sometimes part of the stem is purplish. Both stalk and leaves are edible.
Ramps are sure to perk up the flavor of soups, casseroles, pesto, eggs, rice, and potato dishes. They’re particularly good stir fried with asparagus or snow peas. What’s more, you get a hearty dose of vitamins A and C and antioxidants. Ramps taste like a combination of onions and garlic. The bulbs can be a bit stinky, though, so I find it best to cook with the milder tops.
Look for ramps from April through May and early June.
A co-worker years ago, told me she was going back to West Virginia for the weekend to take in the annual Ramp Festival. When I looked puzzled as to what that might be, she explained that the pungent ramps were celebrated at a festival each year. In so doing, appreciators of wild garlic could gather with each other without being intimidated.
Because of the lingering odor, kids who ate ramps were not allowed to go to school the next day, she said. I later learned that if you stay away from the bulb and eat just the tops, the scent is much less.
A Milder Cousin
Scapes: Garlic scapes are the tops of the garlic bulb, while ramps consist of a whole plant. Scapes taste like a unique blend of onion, scallion and garlic, which makes them great in Asian cuisine, such as a stir fry.
They can also be diced and used in omelets, frittatas, pesto, and a garnish for soups and salads. Eat them cooked or raw—though, be warned, they are a little tough when raw.