A part of me kind of feels a bit indulgent for posting a recipe with ramps/wild leeks today. I’ve read recently that they are sought out aggressively as some sort of “foodie merit badge.” I enjoy their mild and sweet onion-to-garlic taste and burst of first warm season nutrition. Spotting them on a Spring hike offers a special kind of thrill. There’s a sense of freedom in sourcing your own food by wild means!
But there is growing evidence that ramps/wild leeks are over-foraged. Since their glamorization of recent years, less thought is being given to their sometimes 18-month germination stage (kale is 5 days by comparison) and multi-year growth period necessary to produce an edible bulb. I went on a deep dive reading blog posts and articles about dwindling ramp populations, stories of families that would look forward to gathering a few every year, having to go deeper and deeper into the forests for them as time has worn on.
Those gorgeous photos of leafy bundles piled high at a farmer’s market table seem to capture a myopic worldview in some ways! Fortunately, there are plenty of pieces that detail on sustainable harvesting techniques. In the discussion of local eating (whatever it may be defined by in whatever circle you find yourself in), entitlement, movements of excess and the need for more thorough investigation always seem to come up in an ethics tug of war.
Anyway, as with all things we take into our bodies, there has to be at least a little thinking involved. I enjoyed these first bits of spring to the brim of fullness. From painstakingly washing away the grit and forest-y attachments to the actual enjoyment of the end product. Taking them in slowly and approaching the food with thought means a longer-felt satiation for me.
Today, I’m sharing a simple asparagus and ramp soup that just oozes fresh spring energy. The ramps really shine in this easy soup. I even folded them into a rustic bread to enjoy alongside! I used Nigel Slater’s spelt bread recipe and folded in some of the chopped up ramp greens. So nice!
I’ll also add a few notes on this asparagus and ramp soup in general. The best thing about asparagus (to me) is that slight vegetal sweetness. I utilize acid in the form of white wine and lime at the end to enhance the sweet. Lastly, I enrich the stock with some wilt-y asparagus bits. Asparagus sweated out, simmered and puréed with asparagus stock? That’s the absolute peak of clean asparagus flavour right there!
And some more asparagus goodness for you: Lemony Spring Pasta Salad, Pesto Quinoa and White Bean Bake with Spring Veg, and a Grilled Asparagus and French Lentil “Niçoise” Salad.
Simple Asparagus and Ramp Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 ramps/wild leeks, cleaned and chopped (white bulbs and greens divided)
- 1 medium waxy potato, peeled and diced
- 1 lb bunch of asparagus, trimmed and chopped
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 4-5 cups vegetable stock (see note on enriching stock with asparagus)
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- kale chips (chopped kale tossed in oil, salt + pepper and baked in a single layer at 400°F for about 10 minutes or until crisp)
- cooked quinoa
- diced avocado
- extra virgin olive oil
- fresh pepper
- chopped chives/chive blossoms
- edible flowers
- I like to simmer my vegetable stock with a few chopped up pieces of asparagus prior to making this to really amp up the sweet asparagus flavour. Usually the tough ends that I’m trimming anyway are perfect for this!
- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the chopped white ramp bulbs to the pot. Stir them around and cook them until slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
- Add the diced potato, asparagus and cayenne. Sauté the vegetables for a minute or so. Add the white wine, let the alcohol burn off a bit and stir the vegetables some more. Season everything with salt and pepper. Keep cooking the vegetables until the asparagus is bright, bright green, about 4 minutes.
- Add the vegetable stock to the pot (enough to cover by an inch or so) and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer the soup until the potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes or so. Add the chopped ramp greens and stir. Simmer until the ramp greens are bright and softened, about 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
- Carefully blend the soup in batches in your blender to purée. Add the blended soup back to the pot. Add the lime juice to the puréed soup and stir to combine. Check the soup for seasoning and adjust if necessary (more salt, lime etc). To serve, bring the pureed soup to a boil and serve with any garnishes you like.