Although Canadian winters can be long and brutal, I’m glad to live in a climate with marked seasons. When spring comes we shed our layers and everything comes to life. It starts getting exciting when the first shoots poke out of the snow and the days start getting longer. Soon the first tulips pop up and the trees start to blossom. Right now the streets are a canopy of lilacs, their perfume is everywhere.


Local produce is just beginning to trickle into the markets and when you see ramps, you know that spring has arrived. Ramps are wild leeks with leaves that look like lily of the valley, a purple stem, and a delicate white bulb. The entire pant is edible. Despite their demure appearance they pack an assertive garlicky bite. Chef and writer Robert Pincus describes them as “sharp and mean, like green onions that have joined a biker gang”.

For weeks I had been keeping an eye out for ramps in our neighborhood market, but to no avail. Finally this weekend my husband received an email from The Depanneur announcing they were going to be selling a limited amount the following morning ($10 for a pound). I was anxious to pounce on this opportunity, but knew I would be far too lazy to wake up early on a Sunday. The next morning my husband surprised me by jumping out of bed and saying, “Oscar and I are going to get to you some rakes.” I said, “You mean ramps”.


wild leek pesto
This recipe for ramp (wild leek) pesto is adapted from Gourmet. An obvious pairing for it would be pasta. You could also swirl it into risotto or soup.

ramps blender

Wild Leek Pesto

Adapted from Gourmet.

1/2 lb ramps (wild leeks)
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp parmesan, freshly grated
1/2 cup ramp blanching water, reserved

Trim roots from ramps and wash meticulously in several changes of water running your fingers over entire leek to loosen any soil or dirt. Rub off loose outer skins on bulbs; if there are any they will slip right off as you’re massaging them.

Blanch ramps in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2 to 3 seconds. Reserve 1/2 cup of blanching water.

When cool enough to handle coarsely chop ramps and put in a blender with lemon zest, olive oil, parmesan, and 1/4 cup of cooking water. Blend until smooth and season with salt. Add more of the reserved cooking water if needed to thin and blend again.

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