Pickled Ramps


There are many ways to know that spring has arrived in New York city. Daffodils bloom and provide some of the first splashes of color in an otherwise still winter grey city. Bradford pear trees do their own blooming, brilliantly white, like a bright memory of the snow that was covering their branches just weeks ago. People seem to blossom too. New Yorkers are happier, nicer, they start to wear colors other than black and dark blue. The parks fill up during lunch time, despite the chill that is often still in the air.

But the most certain sign that spring is here is the arrival of ramps. Sometimes called wild leeks or wild garlic, they were pretty much unknown to most New Yorkers a few years ago. But they became the ‘it’ food one year and since then they have been arriving in larger and larger quantities every year. They deserve all the attention. They have a distinct garlic scent and flavor but they are so mild they can be eaten raw. The leaves can be added to salads, used to make pesto, or simply sautéed in olive oil for a great side dish. I like to chop them and add them to tomato sauce for pasta.

The stems and bulbs are wonderful chopped and sautéed themselves or sprinkled raw over salads. But my favorite way of eating them is pickled. Left in a sweet and salty brine for a day or two, they transform into irresistible batons of complex flavor. I chop the pickled stems and sprinkle them over pretty much everything: salads, chicken, fish, vegetables. Though I’ve been known to eat some of them straight out of the jar too. They are that good.DSC05077

Pickled Ramps


About 8oz ramps
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt


Wash the ramps and trim off the roots. Some ramps will have a slimy layer on the stems. Remove it. Cut the ramps in two, where the leaves start and the top part of the stems ends. Reserve the leaves for something else. Place all the stems in a 1-pint jar (make sure they are not packed too tight; leave room for the brine). Add fennel seeds and peppercorns.

In a medium saucepan, add vinegar, water, sugar and salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour boiling brine in jar over ramps almost all the way to the top, leaving about 1/4 inch (you’ll have some brine left over). Seal jar with lid and let cool. Place in refrigerator.

Ramps are ready to eat after a couple of hours but they are much better after at least 24 hours. Kept in refrigerator they will last for up to two weeks.

Pea Soup with Fried Ramps and Pumpkin Seed Oil

I hated peas when I was a kid. Though, come to think of it, is there any kid that doesn’t hate peas? In my case, I remember them as these mushy, green orbs that were always a part of a traditional Greek tomato-based sauce we call yahni. They tasted grassy (which to a kid, is pretty much like eating dirt) and were wrinkly looking, like old skin.


As an adult, I changed my mind about peas when I tasted fresh ones, just shelled from their snuggly pods, lightly steamed, and tossed with some melted butter and sea salt. Their flavor was nutty and their texture was soft but with a bite. Alas, fresh peas are only around in late fall. But thanks to my friend JC, I realized that there was another way I could love peas: in a soup. The first time I had a version of this pea soup that he made, I asked him for the recipe. When he told it was basically just peas, I was amazed. And the best part is that since the peas get blended to a smooth liquid, frozen ones work just fine.


This pea soup is a dinner party staple in our household. It’s super simple to prepare and it makes for an elegant and delicious appetizer. It’s also amenable to improvising. Here, I’ve served it with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil, which has a deep toasted nut flavor that compliments the creaminess of the peas beautifully. And since it’s the season for ramps right now, I fried a few in some hot oil until crispy, and added them on top of the soup.IMG_2393

Pea Soup with Fried Ramps and Pumpkin Seed Oil

Note: This soup can be made vegetarian by using 1 cup of vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and adding no milk. Instead of the ramps and pumpkin seed oil, you can top it with anything you like. Some suggestions are: a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche, fried shallots, chopped nuts, walnut oil or almond oil.

10oz of frozen peas, thawed in the refrigerator*
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper

* My favorite brand is Cascadian Farm, Premium Organic Sweet Peas, but any good brand will do.

In a blender, add thawed peas, chicken stock, and milk. Blend until the soup is completely smooth. If your blender doesn’t completely blend the peas and you want a perfectly smooth soup, you can strain the soup through a fine mesh strainer.

Pour blended soup in a small pot and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat over medium heat, stirring often.

Serve with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil and a few chopped ramps that you have fried in hot vegetable oil until crispy (optional).

Yield: 2 servings