Ramps, a seasonal treat in the Northeast US, are in danger of being over-harvested. Since they are very slow to cultivate and difficult to farm, foraging is still the main way to find them. A wild ramp patch can be quickly overrun and destroyed. The most sustainable way to harvest ramps, if you find them yourself, is to cut only one leaf of each plant, leaving the bulb and second leaf to continue growing. This is least impactful on the soil, the plant, and the colony as a whole. We’ve adapted the recipe below to use only the ramp leaves, and you’ll find ramps in this form from sustainable vendors.
“Ahem,” [Taps mic, looks around nervously]. “It all started around ’98. ’99. It was like they were giving it away, you know? We just thought, ‘hey, these are pretty good!’. We didn’t understand. We didn’t know what would happen.” [Squares shoulders, takes deep breath]. “My name is Emily, and I am addicted to ramps.”
This is me at the farmer’s market during ramp season:
I feel a tiny bit bad about evangelizing a vegetable that can be very hard to find but this was just too good not to share. Making ramp butter, along with pickling, is one of the best ways to preserve ramps so you can enjoy them all year round.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with ramps, I’m going to shamelessly cut and paste the description from our last ramp post, Brown Butter Ramps and Oyster Mushrooms on Ricotta Crostini;
Your basic ramp, Allium tricoccum, is a North American species of wild onion that grow across eastern Canada and the eastern United States. (The European/Asian variety is allium ursinum.) I know that doesn’t sound very exciting but they have a unique oniony-garlicky flavor that, if you like that kind of thing, is really fantastic. They are also notoriously difficult to cultivate and their growing season is very short, so they are a true delicacy. That means crazy people (me), will travel far and wide to find them, so if you’re lucky enough to have them in your region, don’t expect to saunter over to the farmer’s market at noon and expect to find any left (because I got there at 7 and bought them all).
This is nothing more than a compound butter (or Beurre composé in French), which itself is nothing more than softened butter that has been flavored with … stuff. You can use anchovies, capers, any herb or spice. Curry, chiles, garlic, lemon. If you’re looking for ideas, Bon Appétit has a fantastic variety of recipes.
This ramp butter is incredibly simple and really lets the flavor of the ramps shine through. I decided to blanch the ramps which mellows the intensity just a bit, and also sets the color so the leaves will stay bright green. You can absolutely use the ramps raw, but I think the flavor is a little nice this way.
If you don’t have a food processor (or don’t feel like getting it out. We’ve all been there), just mince the ramps fine with a knife and stir them into the softened butter).
I like to keep a little bit a texture, but you can process it until it’s perfectly smooth if you want.
So what do you actually do with ramp butter (other than deliver it to my house and give it to me)? So many things.
Here are just a few ideas;
- Let a slice melt over grilled steak or vegetables.
- Rub some under and over the skin of a chicken (or chicken pieces) before roasting.
- Add some to the top of poached or pan-seared fish.
- Add thin disks between slices of a parboiled potato, then roast it until golden.
- Toss some into hot pasta, and add grated parmesan.
- Scramble a few eggs and when they’re almost set, add a tablespoon or two and mix in.
- Slather on grilled bread.
- Rub on corn.
How to store ramps
- Ramps are expensive so don’t buy more than you think you’ll use. You can also pickle them or make them into compound butter which will allow you to keep them for months.
- Fresh ramps are very perishable so after you clean them, dry them well and wrap them loosely in several layers of dry paper towels. Place them in a sealable plastic bag but don’t seal it all the way. They should keep in the fridge for a few days.
The Most Delicious Ramp Butter
- 1 lb unsalted butter room temperature
- 6-8 ounces ramp leaves (and bulbs if you have them) (approx. 25 large ramp leaves)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest grated finely (from about 1 large lemon)
- Kosher salt to taste
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Trim the root end (if there is a bulb) and wash ramps very thoroughly (see Nerd Tips above). Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil, and set aside a bowl of very cold water with lots of ice. Blanch ramps in boiling water for just 30 seconds then remove them and plunge them in the ice water to stop the cooking (this is called ’shocking’). Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Spread ramps out on paper towel to allow to dry a bit more.
- If you are using a food processor, roughly chop the ramps and add them to the bowl along with the butter, lemon zest and juice. Process until they reach the texture you want.
- If you’re not using a processor, chop the ramps finely and place in a bowl with butter, lemon zest and juice. Mix until well combined (you could also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment).
- Add salt and pepper, tasting as you go.
- You can pack compound butter into air-tight containers (I love these little Weck jars) or even ramekins and store them in the refrigerator for about a week. The traditional method is to roll the butter into logs, either in parchment or plastic wrap, so they can be chilled and sliced. You can freeze the rolls for months and just slice off what you need and re-wrap well.
43 thoughts on “The Most Delicious Ramp Butter”
Most of the time I’m pretty happy with the weather and the produce here in the Pacific Northwest but I’ve got to admit every spring when the east goes ramp happy I get a little jealous… this looks and sounds wonderful. Alas.
Yes, you guys have AMAZING produce! I’m always so jealous when I see photos of farmer’s markets over there just teeming with beautiful fruits and veggies. That being said, ramps are incredible and they are almost a consolation for our horrible winters.
My gf and I have a spot of ramps that’s about 2 acres worth. Delish We even made kimchi ramps very delicious
Lucky! Ramp kimchi sounds amazing 🙂
You can probably get durian ice cream more readily though! To me it’s like a cross between the flavor of ramps and ripe bananas.
I’ve never made my own compound butter before so this is definitely an idea I need to try. Thanks for the inspiration!
I’ve made this every year for 3 years in a row. It’s now part of my mom’s go-to mother’s day dinner request, and it seems like every year I have to make more than the last! Seriously great stuff. Toss it in a seafood pasta dish and thank me later!
So happy you like it! We can’t get enough ramps every spring so any way we can spread the love out over the year!
I’m sure it’s good either way, but I was under the impression that ramps are Allium tricoccum, and ramson is Allium ursinum? I’m curious because I just purchased seeds for the ursinum and I was really after the ramson. Love ramps, too, though!
Hmmm, we’ve only gotten ours foraged wild so I’m sure of the genus. I thought ramson is native to Europe and Ramps native to N America but I could be wrong. Either way, the flavor is similar.
There is so much muddled info on ramps and some seems completely inaccurate. Just do a bunch of digging for good reliable experts who know their stuff like proper names and difference between leaks, wild onions and ramps. Allium tricoccum is ramps.
Here’s one good article but I couldn’t find my favorite, sorry… https://wimastergardener.org/article/ramps-allium-tricoccum/
Also here is a university cultivation study. https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-449.html
Ramp seeds can take very special conditions to germinate, and then 7 years to become mature enough to harvest. I wish you luck with your ramson seeds!!
Yeah, you’re correct. Allium ursinum is European, Allium tricoccum is found in eastern North America. That should be updated in the article/recipe.
Hi Meg and Marisa. Quite right! We’ve updated the article. Thankyou!
Honestly, the ramps you have purchased have not been sustainably harvested. The root should ALWAYS be left in the ground. It takes upwards of 5-7 years for a ramp to regroup from roots, from seed close to 12 years. Many places harvesting is regulated or requires a permit it is not allowed at all because of ramps being over harvested for high end restaurant use. It’s really sad. It’s going to take a while to harvest sustainably, but it is worth it to ensure the plants will be available for generations to come.
The recipe is lovely – I appreciate that. But please watch your sources for something more sustainably harvested or locate a nice little patch and harvest responsibly.
Thanks for letting me ramble on. Wild foods are amazing and a real passion of mine.
Hi Kimberly (and Andrea)
Thanks for your thoughts. Since we posted this recipe a few years back, all our local sources have switched to supplying cut ramps instead of root-pulled. We absolutely agree with the principle of harvesting sustainably – we even now have a tiny ramp patch of our own in our yard (and if it ever grows large enough, perhaps one day we’ll be able to harvest it!)
It would be wonderful if you’d edit the recipe and replace the photo to reflect this change. I am a forager and I often encounter new foragers who have the idea that digging up the whole plant is the way to do it, because all the images and recipes on the internet describe and show them that way. I hope you’ll consider. Thanks!
Hi Heather, thank you for the comment. We’re going to look into these changes ASAP.
Agree fully with an earlier commenter – ramps/ramson should always be cut not pulled out of the ground.
May I ask, what is the purpose of the lemon zest? Does it punch up the flavor or add a lemony taste? I’m not averse to adding it to my compound butter, but I don’t want to compromise any of the sweet, sweet rampy goodness 🙂
Hi Lauren, you could certainly leave it out but it adds a little bit of brightness which works nicely with the garlicky ramp flavor. It’s light, so it shouldn’t take over.
Great, thanks! I’ll give it a shot!
This was really good (although I’ve only had it once so far, spread on biscuits – YUM!). Only issue I had was my ramps really didn’t get chopped up well in my food processor. This could be due to the processor itself. I first tried putting the ramps in the food processor by themselves, and then added the butter, and both times the mixture just sort of stuck spread to the outside of the processor bowl. So next time I will chop the ramps more finely before blending them together. Also, I think it would be easier to let the butter soften a bit more. Still would make again though.
Im really glad I came across this article. I live on a couple of acres of mostly wooded land and just discovered that my woods are teeming with ramps! Cant wait to make butter tonight.
Do you have to use unsalted butter? I only have salted right now but I also just got my hands on some ramps and don’t want to mess it up!
Sure! I usually use unsalted so I can control how much salt goes in but use what you have. You may want to add an extra pinch of salt to the mix, even with salted butter but give it a little taste before you decide. 🙂
What if I forgot to blanch
Hi Kandy, it should be fine. Blanching sets the color and mellows the flavor a little but the butter will still be delicious.
I can only get the ramp leaves from my farm market. Will the butter recipe be ok without the bulbs.
Hi Nancy, yes, you can absolutely just use leaves. Most ethical markets won’t sell Ramos with bulbs anymore since the plants are becoming endangered. We going to adapt the recipe to reflect this change ASAP.
Delish! I made 6 pounds of ramp butter and gave them as gifts in half pint jars.
Using grass fed butter❤️
You have lucky friends!
I can’t wait to try this. It’s almost ramp season here in WV and I have a small patch that I ALWAYS cut from ground level, not the root and they come back every single year. It’s a mess enough for me, my mom, and my daughter. We like ramps but my oldest son doesn’t and this year I’m going to introduce my youngest son who is almost 3 to these yummy things. He likes his veggies so we shall see what he does 🙂
So lucky you have a reliable ramp patch! Hopefully your youngest will love them too 🙂
I have a huge patch of ramps that we can see from my porch and I only just discovered them this year. We’ve lived here since 1997! I’ve made ramp butter and have a pot of ramp, cauliflower and ham simmering on the stove right now. I plan on making another batch of ramp butter before the season disappears. Too bad you don’t live close by. I hate seeing them go to waste and I’d love to share.
I just moved to the East Coast and found ramps at the farmers market! They were being sold with the bulbs (some were foraged, some were cultivated) and I didn’t know about leaving the bulbs in the ground until I read this. Next year I’ll look for booths selling just the leaves.
Oh but the butter – SO GOOD. I couldn’t stop myself from eating it straight while I was packaging it. I already mixed it into some pasta and am looking forward to using it on seafood. Thanks for the recipe!
Yes, ramp butter is DANGEROUSLY delicious. Now I want it on everything!
this is SO GOOD! I also did this same exact recipe subbing out butter for cream cheese– amazing