How to Cook Ramps, Also Known as Wild Leeks


Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a spring tradition in the Appalachian mountains. Ramps often make their appearance in early spring, and are harvested and cooked for their strong onion-garlic taste. Mountain people for generations believed that wild leeks cleansed the blood. They may have been on to something, as ramps are high in iron and antioxidants. Ramps festivals are still a common occurrence in Appalachia, often featuring a community ramp dinner.

Things You'll Need

  • 1/2 lb thick cut bacon
  • 3 large potatoes, sliced
  • Enough ramps, chopped, to fill the rest of the skillet
  • Large cast iron skillet
  • Coarsely chop thick sliced bacon, and fry over medium heat in a cast iron skillet. You can use a regular skillet, but it will not give the same results for your wild leeks. Use a nonstick skillet if not using cast iron for cooking ramps.

  • Half peel potatoes, leaving strips of peeling on each. Slice potatoes about a quarter inch thick, add to frying bacon in skillet. Fry until potatoes are beginning to turn slightly brown. Leaving a little bit of peeling adds more texture, more vitamins and minerals, and a little extra flavor to your ramps dinner.

  • Rinse and coarsely chop ramps. If you would like a stronger flavor, chop from the top of the greens right down to the bottom of the root. If you want a milder flavor, only use the greens. Stir in a few cups of ramps, filling the skillet. Stir frequently, until the ramps are cooked down and potatoes are browned through. Total time will be 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the potatoes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Driving through Appalachia in early spring, you are sure to find people selling ramps along the roadside. Ask at the nearest gas station and you will find them.
  • You can often find ramps at a farmer's market, or at a health food store.
  • For a couple days after consuming ramps, you might notice a strange smell to your sweat. This was originally believed to be the toxins "sweating out" of your body. It is harmless, and is probably from the strong smell of the ramps.

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