In season: ramps

Liz Porter of Buckeye Creek Farm in Hickory Flat, just north of Milton, enjoys nurturing and harvesting unusual things.

“We’re not a large place, and we have lots of odds and ends. In spring, we harvest the leaves and flowers of wood violets. We pick purslane. We’ve even done a little with poke salad,” she said.

She and her husband Randall cultivate about an acre and a half. They grow fruits and vegetables like strawberries, tomatoes and an heirloom variety of corn that came from an Ellijay family. This unique corn yields white, yellow and red ears that make the best grits she says she’s ever tasted. Those grits are served at Rathbun Steak and Bantam & Biddy. At Restaurant Eugene, they serve Porter’s Big Fat Grits.

Whatever’s left of what they grow is sold at the Cherokee Fresh Market in Hickory Flat or at the Woodstock farmers market.

But foraging is dear to Porter’s heart. “We forage lamb’s quarters, sheep sorrel with its lemony flavor and seed pods that look like tiny okra, and morels and chanterelles,” she said.

On several occasions, a friend has gifted her with foraged ramps, a member of the onion family with a unique flavor and aroma that chefs and gourmets rave about. Ramps have long slender leaves that look like lily-of-the-valley and are native to eastern North America. They’re seldom cultivated although there are a few ramp farms in North Carolina and West Virginia.

When you meet someone who forages for ramps, chances are good they won’t tell you where they find them. “People don’t tell you where their ramps are because they don’t want anybody to go in there and harvest them all,” she said.

Ramps begin growing in late March and early April and die back when the weather really warms up. The window for harvesting is brief, generally only a week or two.

Hoping to create a regular supply of ramps, Porter planted a patch of ramps in several moist, shady locations on her property. “This will be our first year after planting, so we’ll see how they do. It will take two or three more years before we’ll really be able to harvest. As they’re coming up, it will be all I can do to keep from pulling them up. They’re that delicious,” she said.

And what does Porter do with them? “We really like ramps. Sauteed by themselves, scrambled with eggs or cooked into an omelet. They’re so flavorful you only need a few,” she said.

During their brief season, ramps can also be found at the Buford Highway Farmers Market.

At local farmers markets

Opening this week:

4-8 p.m. Thursday, April 10. East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, Atlanta.

8:30 a.m.-noon Saturday, April 12. Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market, Sandy Springs.

9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 13. Grant Park Farmers Market, Atlanta.

4 p.m.- sunset Tuesday, April 15. East Lake Farmers Market, Atlanta.

8 a.m. - noon Wednesday, April 16. Dunwoody Green Market, Dunwoody.

Cooking demos:

9 a.m. Saturday, April 12. Chef Joshua Hopkins of Empire State South, working with sugarloaf endive. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta.

10 a.m. Saturday, April 12. Chef Terry Koval of Wrecking Bar. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta.

For sale at local farmers markets

Vegetables and fruit: artichokes, arugula and arugula blossoms, Asian greens, beets, cabbage, carrots, chard, collards, escarole, fennel, frisee, green garlic, herbs, kale and kale florets, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, Napa cabbage, pea tendrils, radicchio, radishes, rutabaga, sorrel, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sweet potatoes, turnips

From local reports

Ramp Butter

Hands on: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

Makes: 1/2 cup (1 tablespoon serving size)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 to 3 ramps, cleaned, white part minced, green parts halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine butter, ramps, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mix well. Serve immediately or store well-wrapped in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 110 calories (percent of calories from fat, 98), trace protein, trace carbohydrates, trace fiber, 12 grams fat (7 grams saturated), 31 milligrams cholesterol, 61 milligrams sodium.

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