Ramps and Fiddleheads: the First Foragables of the Season

 

Around here we get super excited when the first green things of the season—ramps and fiddleheads—come through the door. These wildly foraged vegetables have become quite the rage in the culinary world, so they go quickly once they hit the produce shelves. But not everyone (and don’t be embarrassed if you’re in this group) knows what these annual delicacies are and what to do with them.

So here’s a quick primer:

Ramps

If you didn’t see the sign, you might think they’re scallions. But ramps are wild leeks that smell a little like garlic and taste a little like onion. They grow in shady, wooded areas, and are in season in Vermont for a few weeks beginning in late April/early May. As with any other wildly foraged vegetable, harvesting should be done with sustainability and conservation in mind. The ramps in the store right now were foraged by Casey, our produce leader.

These tasty veggies are super versatile. They can be sautéed, roasted or grilled whole, thrown on a pizza, pickled, or used as a topping or ingredient in a sauce. Here’s a great article in Saveur with 10 different recipes.

Fiddleheads

The first fiddleheads are just making it onto the Vermont local produce scene. We’re expecting to get in more from our local foragers before the weekend. But they go fast. So if you see them, grab them and run! (but please pay first :))

So what are fiddleheads, exactly? They’re the bright green coils (fronds) of the fern plant before it opens up. They’re harvested in Vermont in early spring, just as the grass in your front lawn is starting to green up. The window of opportunity is short and sweet (usually from early May to around the third week in the month). Once the fern leaf starts to unfurl, they’re no longer edible.

Like ramps, you can do almost anything with these spring treats—often described as sweet like asparagus and crispy like a green bean. Our advice is: keep it simple. They don’t need much. Anything you’d do with asparagus, you can do with fiddleheads. They can be steamed, roasted, picked, or sautéed. Here’s a delicious-sounding recipe, Roasted Fiddlehead Ferns with Meyer Lemon and Capers, by the Tasting Table.