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Ramping up ~ spring tonic time

Laura Dean Bennett
Staff Writer

As compensation for surviving another winter, we are about to be graced with the indescribably delicious taste of those odiferous little bundles of vitamin C called ramps.

In the next few weeks, they’ll start stretching their green tops up through the soil, and we’ll need to be ready for them.

Anyone lucky enough to have their own ramp patch, wants to be sure that it stays healthy and continues to spread long into the future.

This might be good time to check on your ramps. Sometimes a deep accumulation of leaf litter will make it difficult for the tender leaves to push their way through to the light.

The leaves are the bulbs’ natural protection from sub-zero winter weather and from early spring frosts and freezes – but the weight of a thick layer of damp leaves may prevent some shoots from breaking through.

Carefully rake away most of the leaves, leaving just a thin layer on top of the ramp patch as a little blanket against freezing weather. Be careful not to rake the shoots themselves.

When the leaves are six to eight inches tall – they are ready to dig.

I used to dig down around a ramp until we could get under it and literally pull it out by the roots. But that’s a good way to erode a ramp patch and not the best way to harvest ramps.

To sustainably harvest your ramps and increase the size of your patch, you can cut them out leaving the roots.

Gently dig down around the stem with a long, pointed implement (a chop stick works) and slice off the bulb just above the roots with a very sharp paring knife.

That way, you get the green tops and the lovely white bulb, and the ramp plant gets to continue growing until next year when it will give you another ramp.

Here are some ramp recipes you may like to try:

Grilled Asparagus and Ramps
10 or 20 ramps – to taste
1 bunch young asparagus
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper
Preheat grill pan to medium-high heat. Trim ramps and the tough asparagus ends.
Place ramps and asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet or a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper, and gently toss again. Place under the oven broiler set on low and broil for a few minutes per side, until asparagus is tender (do not overcook).  Or place on a hot grill in a single layer and grill until heated through and grill marks appear – about one minute per side. Serve hot or room temperature.

Sausage, Ramps and Cheese Casserole
1 lb. sausage
2 cups milk
4 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
15 chopped ramps (less if you prefer)
8 small sliced potatoes
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350º ; grease 9×13-inch casserole baking dish.
Brown sausage, stirring to crumble; drain fat.
In large mixing bowl combine milk, eggs, salt, pepper and garlic; mix well.
Layer half of potatoes in prepared baking dish; layer half of sausage over potatoes. 
Sprinkle half of ramps over sausage; repeat with second layer of each.
Pour milk and egg mixture over top; bake about 40 minutes.
Sprinkle cheese on top and return to oven to melt cheese. 

Rampy Hash Browns
2 lb. bag frozen hash browns, partly thawed
1/2 cup melted butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup chopped ramps
1 can undiluted cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream
10 oz. of your favorite cheese, grated
2 cups crushed corn flakes
Additional 1/4 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 375º.
Place hash browns in buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Mix together the butter, salt, pepper, ramps, chicken soup and sour cream; pour over potatoes. Top with cheese.
Mix corn flakes and 1/4 cup melted butter; sprinkle over the top and bake 45 minutes.

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