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What are Ramps

L’Ail des Ours or Ramps

Ramps, or what the French call l’ail des ours (bear garlic) has sprouted.  It’s a little early this year, like everything, and so very, very welcome.  A wild forest plant, the ramp has become a trendy, sought after green.  My grandmother, who undoubtedly took to the woods to harvest ramps, would be amused.  In her generation, it was foodstuff, something to augment the last of winter/beginning of spring diet. Today, it belongs to the stars.

Abundant

This season is abundant this year, as I see these fragile green leaves on many market stands, and even in the local organic groceries.  The French are in love with this stuff, and the name they give it always brings a smile.  It’s called “l’ail des ours,” or bear garlic, no doubt because of the enormous bear population in France who uses it to up their culinary game. If you’ve never had ramps and don’t know what they look like, refer to the photos.  And if you  stumble onto a patch without realizing it, you find yourself walking in a garlic-scented wonderland, visions of deliciously garlicky dishes floating in your head.

On Their Own or Added to a Sauce

Ramps can be served on their own as a tender green, torn and added to salads, minced and added to just about anything that asks for garlic flavor.  Here, I’ve minced and stirred them into yogurt cheese for a dip to serve with crackers.  If you’ve got a bunch, substitute them for basil in your favorite pesto recipe.  Stir them into your next cream sauce, add them at the last minute to a soup.    

L’ail Des Ours Dreams

If you don’t have ramps available in your part of the world, you can dream about them in the same vein you dream of a black truffle, fresh foie gras from the southwest of France, a brand new wine just out of the barrel. And on your next spring visit to France, l’ail des ours or ramps will be waiting for you.

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