In most New England farms like mine, April is a month of greenhouse work, plowing and planting.
However it also represents the beginning of the spring season for delicate greens, both cultivated and those found in the wild. Found underneath row coverings to keep them warm, or within hoop-houses, spring salad greens have emerged to provide the first harvest of the season.
Our first cuttings will offer such delicate lettuce varieties like Lola Rosa and Red Oak, Japanese greens such as Mizuna, and the ever popular Arugula. These extremely tender leaves are best eaten with very little dressing. I suggest some good extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice (with a little salt and pepper).
Ramps are a crop my farm does not cultivate, but we have found them all over the wooded hillside on our property. They can be found in cool, forested areas from the Carolinas to the high reaches of Canada (but not in California from what I understand), and these tender greens offer a first chance for New England chefs and home cooks alike to use a local spring vegetable.
They also provide a shift away from the root vegetables and winter squashes that have been a main feature on local menus and kitchen tables. Unlike their more common, cultivated brethren, including scallions, onions and garlic, ramps can’t be found at the supermarket all year long. So run down to your local farmer’s market and find who’s got them for sale.
Both the tender leaves and the pearly bulbs are edible. When left uncooked, their strong flavor resembles a cross between garlic and scallions. They can be very strong, so be warned that your breath may be a little strong after eating them.
When cooking with ramps a subtler flavor emerges but still quite delicious. The great thing about the ramp is the versatile way you can use them. Try them in your mashed potatoes, or diced finely over your spring green salad. They are excellent in eggs, too.
Ah, I love the Springtime in New England for many reasons but mainly because it means the beginning of a new eating year. Happy Spring and happy eating everyone!