Cooking With Early Spring Produce

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

After a long winter, it’s such a treat to cook and eat early spring produce. Larry Meiller finds out how to enjoy ramps, asparagus, rhubarb and more!

Featured in this Show

  • Ramps Are An Early Spring Delicacy, Chef Says

    After a long Wisconsin winter, any fresh, local produce is a treat. And when it is as tasty and fleeting as ramps, it can be even better.

    Terri Milligan, a culinary instructor and writer, as well as the former owner and executive chef of the Inn at Kristofer’s in Sister Bay, said that the best way to describe a ramp (Allium tricoccum) is as a wild leek, but it might also be called wild garlic and spring onion colloquially.

    “They’re smaller than a leek, but they have that green onion, leek look. They grow in the wild so when you see them, they kind of look like large lily of the valley leaves coming up. But, when you pull them up, they look like a larger green onion,” Milligan said.

    Milligan always liked ramps, but it was when she bought a house and realized that the entire backyard was filled with them that she really got serious about taking advantage of them.

    “We bought the house in the wintertime and we didn’t know. We’ve had the house about 15 years and I did have the restaurant then. I learned to do so many things with ramps, it was unbelievable,” Milligan said.

    Ramps are in the garlic family, and Milligan described the flavor as more pungent than a green onion. She said that they have become a trendy ingredient to use, especially since wild cooking has come into fashion recently. There is even a Twitter account dedicated to reported ramp sightings. She said that she has heard of them selling for $20 per pound in larger metropolitan areas.

    “I told my husband, if we ever get desperate, we can become ramp sellers!” Milligan said.

    As with any wild crop, there are ethical and sustainability issues to consider. No matter how tempting, ramp seekers shouldn’t trespass on private property. It’s also important to leave enough of a patch so that it can replenish itself.

    Milligan offered great ideas for seasonal dishes that utilize ramps, like her wild mushroom and ramp crepes and Alaskan halibut with fresh morels and ramps.

    But, to enjoy the ramp flavor all year long, Milligan has other ideas. One is to make ramp pesto. She said that the sauce can be made using both the white bulb and the green leaves so it’s very pleasing visually. After making the pesto, she freezes it in ice cube trays, so it is easy to store and portion out.

    Another favorite is pickled ramps. Milligan said that they are a delicious garnish or salad addition at any time of the year.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Cynthia Schuster Producer
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Chef Terri Milligan Guest

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