According to historians, the river that ran by the native American village near the mouth of the giant lake was lined with wild onions, most likely ramps or wild leeks. In the The Encyclopedia of Chicago, Ann Durkin Keating says “The name ‘Chicago’ derives from a word in the language spoken by the Miami and Illinois peoples meaning ‘striped skunk,’ a word they also applied to the wild leek (known to later botanists as Allium tricoccum). This became the Indian name for the Chicago River, in recognition of the presence of wild leeks in the watershed. When early French explorers began adopting the word, with a variety of spellings, in the late seventeenth century, it came to refer to the site at the mouth of the Chicago River.”
Ramps are like other onions, an underground bulb and long tall green grasslike stalks. Ramps are much smaller than leeks, more like scallions, but the leaves are flatter. They are most tender and tasty in spring, and as with robins, when they arrive I know spring is really here. Onion stalks are the first thing edible to push up in spring, and a chomp on raw ramps is my first celebratory rite of spring.
Ramps propagate rapidly and a handful planted in spring will produce a bucketful by late summer. Like scallions, served raw, they add a pungent bite to salads, and can be stir fried or grilled as a side dish or topping for meats.
When pickled, they are sweet, sour, tangy, and a great relish to accompany BBQ and grilled foods. Add them to coleslaw. Top a burger or pulled pork sandwich. Or any sandwich for that matter. Toss into a salad or into grilled veggies.
I fell for the pickled ramps by Chef Rick Gresh as a side dish. I asked for his permission to publish his recipe and he gave me the go-ahead with the request that I disclose that his recipe is based on one by eminent Chef Tom Colichio. With his permission, here’s Chef Gresh’s recipe for pickled ramps, slightly modified by Yours Truly. Try them on a pulled pork sammie or on hot dogs. Please note, these are refrigerator pickles, which means they must be kept chilled.Free Barbecue News magazine every month to members of our Pitmaster Club. Click here for a free 30 day trial. No credit card needed. No spam. Click here to Be Amazing!
Published On: 5/28/2013 Last Modified: 5/11/2021