When I can see ramp leaves starting to turn yellow in sunny areas, I know it’s time to grab some leaves to dehydrate for cooking during the year as an all-purpose replacement to garlic and onion powder (both of which I find too strong for my liking anyway). Dried ramp leaves are more gently than either dried onions or garlic, and come along with a bonus: that special rampy flavor you can’t buy in a store. I’ve ended up running out of leaves for the past few years in a row, so this year I made darn sure to get a lot–easy to do since they’re on my girlfriends farm.
After a few days of rotating the dehydrator trays, I had a good gallon jar or so of lightly crumbled ramp leaves–crumbled enough for storage, but not ground to a powder which will eventually lose some (but not all) of it’s flavor if it sits at room temperature.
There’s a lot of things you can do with dried ramp leaves, one of my favorites is to simply put them in broth, but they’re so much more. I’ve always wanted to make a sort of all-purpose dried ramp leaf rub / seasoning recipe that I could use with meat and vegetables though, and with plenty of dried leaves around, it was time.
Now dried ramp leaves are delicious, but too many of them can come off as a bit swampy, if that makes any sense. balance in all things. But how much balance? After a few versions, I decided to cut the ramp leaves 50% with other seasonings. By comparison, using 50% garlic or onion powder in a rub would be offensively oniony, dried ramp leaves, on the other hand, are more delicate, and can be used with a heavier hand.
The spices here I specifically chose with the ramps flavor profile in mind. Carrot family seasonings are great here since they can easily coexist with the ramps without taking over, like cinnamon or cloves might. Coriander was the first one I reached for, since the brightness gives a needed lift to the woodsy-ness. Cumin is another great partner, that, while strong in itself, can add a good undertone that the ramps love (another simple rub is just cumin, pepper and dried ramp leaves). Finally, a healthy dose of fresh ground black pepper adds some warmth that won’t overpower things, and a smaller amount of paprika adds a little color and increases the affinity of the rub for contacting hot oil.
That being said, this rub is just a beginning, not an end. I really encourage you to try out my batch first, but afterwords, depending on what you’re making, there’s some other great additions you might add to the basic recipe. Here’s a few examples:
Additions to make the rub your own
- Adding lightly toasted sesame seeds can give a nice combination of flavor, similar to zaatar.
- Dried oregano or even better, dried monarda fistulosa can also work well here.
- If you want to use the rub with fish, increase the coriander and decrease the black pepper by half.
- Substitute ground sumac for paprika
How to use
- Use as a generous rub for pork and beef. Use a lighter hand for chicken or fish.
- It’s great to rub on smoked meat. For the best crust, season the meat with salt, then rub with the ramp rub and allow to rest overnight before smoking. Same goes for braising.
- As a sprinkle. Think freshly cooked rice, steamed vegetables, etc.
- In soups. Use a light hand here since there’s a good amount of black pepper that can make soup spicy.
Dried Ramp Leaf Rub
- 1 oz 1/2 cup ground dried ramp leaves
- 10 grams 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 14 grams 2 Tablespoons cumin seed
- 7 grams 1 Tablespoon fennel seed
- 14 grams 2 Tablespoons coriander
- 14 grams 2 Tablespoons sweet paprika
- Combine all ingredients and grind to a fine powder in a highspeed blender, or use a spice grinder and work in batches.
- If you have a strong arm, you could also make a coarse seasoning using a mortar and pestle, but the flavors won’t be as evenly combined.
- Store in a pantry in an air tight container. The seasoning will last (meaning keep a strong flavor, like other dried spices) for a month or two at room temperature, or can be frozen or refrigerated for longer storage.