Friday, May 14, 2010

Ramping Up

I grew up in the south, so I have always viewed the months of April and May as springy, getting into sandals, and everything in bloom kind of months. Even March can be warmish in the south. But certainly these are the months of green grass before the deluge of summer when the 90-100 degree heat turns even the most well cared for lawn brown and dead.

I have lived in the northeast for almost 13 years now. Almost as long as the years I spent growing up in Tennessee, and certainly I remember more of my time in New York since I have spent it as an adult rather than say, learning to walk, or speak and read english. One of the things I appreciate the most about the northeast are the seasons. Spring in West Tennesse is a short 4 week period of time when everything pollenates at once and the weather goes from 45 to 75. The mornings are still very cold and the afternoons can blaze with heat, and the hayfever is disasterous. Still this is preferable to the summer months of 95 degree heat coupled with 90% humidity (when it is not raining). I don't think I had a good hair day until I moved.

In New York, the allergens are easier. Flowers pollenate first and then the trees, and they seems to come in waves making it easier to handle. There are some trees that flower first and then sprout their leaves while others burst forth leaves first and flower at some later point. I don't know when, but instinct tells me they have to reproduce some how. We also get several weeks of weather that bounces around among the mid 50s and the mid 70s. My favorite is what I like to call "Inside-Outside" where the weather outside feels exactly like room temperature. This is particularly relaxing because the whole world feels just as comfortable as your own cozy living room. May and early June afford the best shot for "Inside-Outside" and that happens to be right around my birthday, so needless to say it is my favorite time of year.

So with all this meterological bliss, you'd think that the farmer's market would have an overwhelming amount fresh fare just plucked from the obliging earth. And my upbringing in warmer climes leads me to think this too. However May is deceptive in the northeast. The ground has just started to warm up enough to grow vegetable plants, but nothing has begun to flower, so there are no true "vegetables" or products of a plant's attempt at reproduction. What you find are just the leaves of those plants or the plants themselves.
In May at the farmer's market in New York you'll find greens and spinach (mostly baby and some adolescent spinach), baby lettuce greens, and asparagus. You'll usually find apples and potatoes available year round, but once you buy these in April and May it is pretty obvious that they are last year's crop. Not to say that there is anything wrong with those apples and potatoes. Kept in cold storage apple and potatoes hold up pretty well, but nothing holds a candle to a golden yellow potato plucked from the ripe soil of Washington or Columbia County, NY in say mid to late August. De-lish.

Last week I tried to formulate a weeks worth of meals around asparagus and spinach, salad greens and potatoes. This is tough because Thing 1 simply won't eat most of these things (can you believe he doesn't like potatoes? What kind of kid doesn't like potatoes?). I was looking to try something new, and I found it....ramps.

I had heard about ramps on the Food Network. There are cults formed around these hard to cultivate funky little oniony things. They are kind of like really pungent spring onions. They smell a little like garlic, but taste totally different. They remind me most of the clumps of funny smelling chivey-onion grass that I used to pull out of my back yard in Memphis as a kid.
Now DH is not a lover of garlic. We eat a lot of it, but on his terms, cooked or roasted, rarely raw. It upsets his stomach and he can smell it for days. I once ate falafel for lunch, and he had worked late that day and didn't come home until after midnight. Even though I was asleep in bed, he said our bedroom stunk like garlic. For me, if it is not smeared on my upper lip, I can't smell it. This being said I wanted to prepare something simple. Ramps and asparagus sauteed in olive oil with pasta would fit the bill.

No recipe needed here. I took the ramps and their leaves (the woman at the farmer's market laughed at me when I said I wanted her to cut the tops off them. I didn't know they were edible!!), and sauteed them in olive oil. Though they smelled pungent and funky when fresh cut, sauteeing them made them really mild. I added some sliced leftover chicken (recycling). I boiled the pasta and in the last 3 minutes I threw some asparagus spears cut into bit size pieces into the pasta water. Then I drained those and added them into the oil with the ramps and chicken. I added salt and pepper and lemon juice and let them soak up all the yummy sauce. Red pepper flakes would be good here too. I served this with a hefty sprinkling of parmesean cheese.

Thing 1 didn't eat all of it. I think he only ate the pasta, but there might have been a ramp clinging to it somewhere. And he didn't buy it when we told him that the asparagus was broccoli (his favorite veggie) But I am turning a blind eye, enough was consumed and there was no self-induced vomiting. DH inhaled it. This one is a keeper.


  1. Lovely post! Inside-outside, HA!

  2. My toddler isn't into potatoes right now, either!!! It makes absolutely no sense to me, at all!
    Are "ramps" the same thing as those garlic curlicue greens that they had at CSA last year? They sound yummy. :)

  3. Actually no, those were garlic scapes. Ramps are similar but they have leafy tops. They are good, I am going to make this again next week!