Spring Foraging Favorite: Ramp Pesto!

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The season for one of my favorite wild edibles will soon be coming to an end.  Ramps, or wild leeks, are a favorite spring green that has a very unique onion-garlic-like flavor I’ve come to crave in the spring.

Although I would like to say that I’ve harvested several times already this year, I missed out on much of ramp season, but just HAD to get out there to make some ramp pesto.

I spotted a huge patch awhile back and finally returned there to harvest some ramps.

In the spirit of the latest consensus about sustainable harvesting, I only took the ramp leaves which are very flavorful indeed. I left the bulbs alone so that they can develop into new plants next year. Overharvesting can very quickly decimate a ramp patch (even one as big as this!), and when you can get away with using just the leaves, why not do that and ensure that this species continues to grace the plates of future generations? Continue reading

Buttermilk Ramp Biscuits

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Have you spotted ramps while roaming through the forest or at your farmers’ market this year?  They’re fun to cook with and fun to harvest.

We’re nearing the end of ramp season, but there’s still time to try this delicious recipe!  Someone special recommended a version of it several months ago, and I was excited to finally have ramps around so that I could try it.  It’s a great way to taste the season! Continue reading

The Fall Garden and Her Vegetable Soup

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The peak of gardening has passed, but there are still plenty of things to be seen, done, and harvested this time of year.

Continue reading

Ramps, Barley, & Beans

Ramp, barley, and beans soup
As the wheel of the year keeps turning us further into spring, it is already nearing time to say goodbye to ramps which are generally only around for harvesting for about 4-6 weeks each spring.
I think I made good use of them this year, but a recent recipe I came across seemed like a good one to squeeze in before the season officially ends.

Here are the ingredients from the original recipe:

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup hulled barley, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound ramps, whites and greens separated and sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper

And here is what I used instead:

  • 2 cups vegetable broth and 2 cups whey (from my recent ricotta trial!)
  • 3/4 cups hulled barley, rinsed
  • 15 ramps, whites and greens separated and sliced
  • Salt & Black pepper
  • 15 Oz. kidney beans

I thought this recipe would be better with the addition of some protein (the beans), I excluded a vegetable that is not in season (the celery), and I was excited to try my whey as a stock in addition to some vegetable stock!  I also added some additional barley, but you might want to add even more if you give this recipe a go.

Directions:

  1. First add the broth, barley, and the ramp whites to a stock pot. Bring to a boil and simmer 45 minutes.
  2. After the simmering, add the greens and take half of the mixture and puree it in a blender to make it creamier.
  3. Return the mix back to the pot, add the beans, and cook until everything is warmed.
  4. Done!

Ramp, barley, and beans soup

I’m not sure why my version doesn’t seem nearly as green & creamy as the photo used by the magazine.  Maybe this is because I didn’t use my good blender (too much clean-up to make soup!), or because I didn’t use enough ramp greens (some were yellowing as the season ends…), or maybe they were cheaters and used food coloring!

Either way, the meal was tasty & (mostly) local, but would have been better if I had found time to bake bread to go with it!  Next time…

Also on ‘these light footsteps’:

Local Cooking: Making Friends with Kale

Farro with shitake mushrooms, kale, and chevre.

When you make the decision to start incorporating more local and seasonal foods into your diet, it can initially be overwhelming because not many of us are used to working with the foods that are found in seasonal abundance.  It forces us to get a bit more creative with our cooking.

So for example, with ramps being abundant right now I’ve made them into pesto, chopped them into salads, sauteed them as toppings, and yesterday I tried what I’ve gathered to be the “authentic” West Virginian way to eat ramps — with beans (and cornbread). And I still have a few more tricks up my sleeve before the ramps disappear! (Stay tuned…)

Ramps and beans (and mushrooms)!

Another popular item at farmers’ markets in the Spring is kale.  I suppose I had started to learn about kale before trying to be quite as much of a locavore as I am today, but it’s definitely not something that I grew up eating. And when you’re not used to eating greens like kale and collards, they can be intimidating. But greens like kale are good to incorporate because they’re so darn healthy!

I think I first started to actually like kale because of kale chips.  I believe they’re relatively palatable even to the novice kale eater, and yet they start to break you in to kale’s bitter charms.

There are many types of kale chips to make, but I think it’s best to smother kale in a delicious tahini sauce.

TAHINI KALE CHIPS

Kale Chips

Kale Chips

  • ~2 Bunches kale
  • 1/4 cup tahini,
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce (or Bragg’s liquid aminos)
  • 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
  • some sprigs of parsley and oregano (and I added some purple dead nettle that was also growing nearby my parsley and oregano…why not?)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 Tbs. nutritional yeast
  • dash of salt
  • enough water to mix well…probably 1/8 cup

Break the kale into bite-sized pieces and place into a large bowl (take out any of the thick stems).  Mix all of the other ingredients in a blender, and then pour the sauce over the chips and mix it in well.  Lay the coated chips out on dehydrator sheets or oven sheets.

Dehydrate at 115* for about 4 hours or until really crispy (some recipes call for up to 8 hours — I did this last batch for 6).  You can also use an oven at 200* for about an hour, but check it often.  I’m sure that some people have mastered the oven version of kale chips, but I haven’t had luck with that.

I realize that not all of these ingredients are local, but I think this is a good place to start experimenting with kale.  And you can try to get as many of these ingredients as locally sourced as possible.

However, I was also able to devise a more locally-sourced kale recipe this week…

FARRO WITH KALE, SHITAKE MUSHROOMS, AND CHEVRE

I found some star ingredients at the farmers’ market that I was inspired to combine into this dish.

  • 2 cups warm, cooked farro (but I made a lot more than this — freeze some for later!) To cook farro: boil the grain in a 2:1 ratio of water (lightly salted) to farro. Simmer covered for 25 to 35 minutes. Drain any unabsorbed liquid.
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • enough butter to saute
  • 4-5 cups of kale
  • 2-3 cups of shitake mushrooms
  • 2 oz. chevre
  • salt/pepper to taste

Start by sauteing the carrots, onions, and garlic in the butter until they’re soft and the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the kale and watch for it to wilt a bit and turn a darker color of green — this means it’s getting close to ready, and you can add the 2 cups of warm, cooked farro.

Stir it up

Mix all of this together and then add the chevre.  Keep stirring this while the heat is low until the cheese is melted in and creamy.  Local and delicious!

Farro with shitake mushrooms, kale, and chevre.

Linked up on the Homestead Barn Hop.

Also on ‘these light footsteps’:

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Ramp + Oregano Pesto. Mmm.

Ramp + Oregano Pesto Goodness

Wow. My brain’s pleasure neurons are still lighting up after discovering this one. Ramp + Oregano pesto, you have won over my heart and my mouth.

Ramp + Oregano Pesto Goodness

This week at the Tremont farmers’ market, one of my favorite farmers (from Por-Bar Farms) had a deal on ramps and oregano with the suggestion of making a pesto.  I hesitated for a moment as I’ve been collecting so many of my own ramps, but I haven’t gathered any for a few days so I went ahead and got the deal. I am happy that I did as this makes a fantastic pesto!!

I looked around at quite a few recipes today, but didn’t find anything quite perfect enough for me, so I took what I learned and developed my own.

To make something similar, you will need:

  • 15 ramps
  • a bunch of oregano (mine was about 1 packed cup)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (and I added about a Tbs extra when blending)
  • 1/4 cup toasted nuts (I thought I had some local nuts in the cupboard, but I ended up using pine nuts)
  • 1/4 cup hard cheese (something like parmesan)

First, you’ll need to chop the ramps.

Chopped ramps

Then you’ll need to pull off the oregano leaves and tightly fill a cup.

Bunch of oregano.

1 Packed cup of Oregano.

Measure out a heaping 1/4 cup of nuts and toast them.  Pine nuts need to be toasted for about 5 minutes.

Heaping 1/4 cup of pine nuts.

Toasting pine nuts.

Add these ingredients plus the olive oil and cheese in a blender or food processor, and mix it all together!  But don’t go for too long because it’s best to still have some texture in the pesto.

Pesto!

And then you can use this anywhere you desire an intensely awesome pesto! I tossed some of mine in a bit of tri-color pasta. Mmm. Depending on how much pesto you use at a time, I’d say this makes about 5 or 6 servings.  It’s about 1 cup of finished pesto product (I have a lot leftover and even was able to freeze some).

Pesto Pasta

My only warning is that it is a bit strong.  You can’t really give me too much onion/garlic, but if you’re sensitive to that taste, you may want to skip this recipe, or leave out some of the white bulbs of the ramps and focus on the green parts.

Also, I have to share that my salads are becoming increasingly exciting as the Spring picks up!  This 100% local side salad included lettuce, radish, mushroom, carrot, and cheese (not yet grated for this picture) all gathered from the farmers’ market.  Perfection!

Spring salad.

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Spring Foraging

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Outside of this strange world that we call the internet, I don’t know many people who would say that an ideal day is one spent in the woods learning about wild edible foods. But for me, a day spent meandering through the woods is in itself the indication of a day well spent, and to combine that with learning about and connecting with plants comes close to absolute perfection. Maybe other people just haven’t yet tried…

Behold the knowledge

Disclaimer: I have not tried eating all of the plants shown below and I am not suggesting that you do so without adequate preparation! My method generally goes something like this:

1) Find a plant and ID it in my field guide or learn about a plant and aim to find it and identify it.

2) Identify it on at least a few other ocassions.

3) Read about the plant and possible dangerous look-alikes.

4) Try a small amount to make sure it agrees with my body.

5) Eat more.

Let’s begin…

The dried corms (Wikipedia: a short, vertical, swollen underground plant stem that serves as a storage organ) of jack-in-the pulpits can be sliced and eaten like potato chips!

Jack in the pulpit

Japanese knotwood can be eaten like asparagus…and I encourage this one due to its invasive nature!

Japanese knotwood

Coltsfoot can be candied and I’m still looking to find a patch big enough so that I can infuse the flowers into honey as a cough remedy!

Coltsfoot

Chopped toothwort root can be substituted for horseradish.

Toothwort

I also hit a ramp jackpot! They were everywhere!

Ramp overload!

Dinner!

Wandering around this way also leads to other beautiful finds like Squirrel corn (I don’t have any idea about its edibility, don’t try!)…

Squirrel corn. Hehe - such a funny name.

And you also might come across extremely cozy patches of moss at the edge of a ravine.  This is my version of ultimate renewal and peace. I once read that some Native Americans believe that excess energy accumulates in places like this (i.e., cliffs, edges). I think they are right – it feels so wonderful! Why don’t I do this every day?

I’m happy to provide more information to anyone who’s interested!

Go be in nature! Give in to your animal instincts and go foraging!

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Wandering on the Last Day of March: Impermanence & Wild Ramps

Ramps for me; ramps for free

Yesterday, a hike through one of my favorite places to be in nature revealed several gifts.

First, was a reminder of impermanence. Everything is always changing and it is best not to become attached to any objects, people, or situations.  Strive to find happiness in each moment.

Everything will return to the Earth in time.

Second was a gift of free nourishment!  We found wild ramps (Allium tricoccum), a perennial wild onion.

Patch of ramps

When you get closer, you can tell they’re ramps by the slight reddish-purple color where they meet the ground. And when you pull them, you’ll know they’re ramps by their characteristically onion smell.

Reddish-purple: yup, ramps!

I harvested several.  It’s important that we’re not greedy when wild harvesting things so that we (and other creatures who depend on them) will have these foods in the future. Always leave many more plants than were harvested (some suggest harvesting every 4th ramp).  Another idea is to just pull the ramp up from where it meets the ground — you’ll still get some of the onion, but the bulb will be left to grow again.  Or even consider being regenerative with the onions and if you take some bulbs, use a few to start a new patch elsewhere.

Ramps for me; ramps for free

Ramps have sulfur compounds that are detoxifying for your body — try some today!

Also, did anyone else participate in this year’s Earth Hour?

It’s a fun way to show support for the Earth, be reminded of how much we depend on electricity, and to unplug for awhile! The camera-flash makes it look bright, but we had fun with candles as our only light for over an hour.  I’d like to do this more often!

Candlelight night!

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