UPDATE: The New York Times explores ramps fever, both among chefs and consumers, and questions if the green is getting overharvested. “I think we’re having an impact on ramp populations,” said James Chamberlain, a research scientist with the United States Forest Service.
In Quebec, the sale of ramps has been banned since 1995 and it is currently listed as "threatened." In 2004, ramps harvesting was banned in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina after a study revealed that "the only way to prevent damage to a ramp patch was to harvest less than 10 percent once every 10 years."
The situation is not too dire, however. In parts of New York, the ramps blanket the ground like "carpet."
PREVIOUSLY: It's that time of year again when the food world goes crazy thanks to one ephemeral ingredient: the humble ramp. This gone-before-you-know it early spring vegetable simultaneously evokes sighs of gastronomic pleasure and groans of annoyance—after all, how much news coverage can one ingredient get?
Here's the scoop:
Ramps have a flavor similar to "fried green onions with a dash of funky feet," food writer Jane Snow described. It is also know as a wild leek, so ramps have a pronounced onion and garlic flavor.
But, with every trend, there is the inevitable backlash. New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton recently tweeted:
Chef Amanda Cohen mocked, "I have a shrine to ramps and I pray to them three times a day and you want me to lay hands on them and COOK them?"
In an article for Time.com last year, Josh Ozersky referenced this "Church of Ramp" and how it is "one of the fastest-growing denominations in the religion of seasonality." Ozersky referenced the Food Snob's Dictionary:
The ramp is not a salad green, but it is a green vegetable, and it is the first legitimately green thing that appears from the ground in April, a month that, in terms of farm yield, is otherwise an extension of winter. For food snobs, therefore, ramps are overcelebrated and overly scrutinized, like the first ballgame played in April, even with 161 more games ahead.
So, are ramps worthy of this cult of obsession? Try them soon, before they disappear and make room for the next best foodie-approved spring green vegetable.