Maybe I’m bitter. Due to the whims of Mother Nature, I live too far west in these United States to enjoy the late-spring bounty of ramps, a type of wild allium that pops up across the eastern part of the country starting in April. Every year, when ramps make their grand appearance, everyone loses their damn minds. And I, for one, am tired of hearing about it.
Thanks to the modern innovation of airplane travel, I’ve eaten ramps before. I remember a ramp-spiked omelet in New York that was both pungent and pillowy. It was delicious, but it brought on hours of garlicky burps, something that ramp-lovers are more than happy to tell you about. It’s almost as if having sulfuric stank breath for many hours after eating is a badge of honor for ramp enthusiasts, in the same way that folks proudly boast about the funk of durian or Limburger cheese.
Right now, it’s impossible to avoid ramps — and ramp discourse — if you pay any attention to food culture. On Instagram, the #ramps hashtag reveals photos of ramp-shaped earrings, David Lebovitz’s big bowl of wild garlic pesto, and countless people stomping around the woods in search of this limited-time-only allium. At Chicago newcomer the Oakville, chefs grill ramps and toss them into grits, while Fiola in Miami is currently serving a wild ramp zabaglione, a savory riff on the classic Italian dessert.
The ephemeral nature of ramps is certainly part of their appeal. They’re only available for a few weeks each year, typically abundant at farmers markets and on restaurant menus from late April to early June. But ramps also function as a foodie status symbol, like truffles or foraged mushrooms or caviar. They’re proof that the person who adds the leaves to their focaccia or omelet knows what the hell they’re doing — and is happy to pay $8 per bundle to show off that “expertise.”
But for those of us who don’t have access to fresh ramps in our own forests, it’s okay. If you really must have a ramp right now, because some chef on Instagram won’t shut up about them, you can buy a pound for $35 via luxury food purveyor D’Artagnan. But you could also just enjoy the seasonal pleasures native to your own region, perhaps some tender French breakfast radishes, or early season strawberries, and smugly remember that East Coast ramp fans still have to wait a few more weeks for a little spring sweetness.