My first little hunt of the season was with my girlfriend’s mother at their farm, we got up early to go take a look at some of the ramps and some wild peppermint she told me she’d come across.
The peppermint was unlike any I’ve ever seen before, with a red color on it’s stems, and the leaves painted purple here and there. Like most of the wild peppermint I’ve eaten too, it’s refreshing, ice cold, and toothpastey-in a good way.
The ramps were tiny, not even having spread their leaves from the little red sheath yet. Usually I don’t like to pick them when they’re so young, but my hunting guide insisted I take some if I promised I would do something with them.
Something in this case meant chomping on them whole, which can be tough to do as they grow larger and get more pungent. When they’re just emerging from the ground though, I find our Midwest wild garlic tastes mellow, more like an herb or a scallion than the heady onion bombs they’ll become later.
The recipe is a unique one, based in part off of a plate I worked on during my work on the Heartland cookbook last year. In the original recipe, ramps are grilled, and then napped with a sour-sweet sauce spiked with herbs and dried fruit.
I modified the recipe with what I had in the pantry, using rowan/mountian ash berries packed in syrup as the fruit, and the fresh peppermint as the herbal note. The rowan berries in syrup taste a bit like cranberries; the sugar taming the aggressive ramps a bit.
It’s a side dish that hits plenty of spots: sweet, sour, rampy, and refreshing with the mint. It would love to be part of a larger meal, on a plate with that venison roast or piece of game you’ve been saving in your freezer from last season.
Grilled Ramps with Rowan Berries and Wild Peppermint
Of course you can make substitutions here, switch the ramps out for braised young leeks, change the rowan berries to dried golden raisins or apricots, including some sugar and water to make a syrup. For the herbs it would be just fine if you used tarragon, basil, chervil, or marjoram, really any soft-textured herb you’d like.
You could serve the sauce separately and allow people to dress the ramps themselves, especially if the dish will have to sit for a while, like if you’re having a barbecue.
Serves 4 as a side dish
- 1/2 lb young ramps
- 2 tbsp shallot, diced 1/4 in
- 1/2 pint jar of rowan berries in syrup, see recipe here for an example
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
- 2 teaspoons wild peppermint, sliced
- 2 tbsp grapeseed or another high smoke point oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Cut off the roots from the ramps, then wash thoroughly in cold water. Wrap the ramps in a towel to dry.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a saute pan and sweat the shallots, season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the rowan berries, their syrup and the vinegar and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add the peppermint to the berries and stir, then reserve the sauce until needed.
- Prepare a charcoal grill fire. When the flames have died and the coals are nice and hot, season the ramps with the oil and salt and pepper to taste. Grill the ramps for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned and completely wilted. Remove the ramps to a warmed serving dish and nap with the berries and their sauce to taste, which you’ve reheated if it got cold.