Tuesday, May 06, 2008

If it's rampion you want, rampion you shall have.

Ok. All my cooking blogs have been talking about ramps this past week. I have not read too deeply into any of the posts to find out what ramps are, but apparently ramps have like the shortest season of any edible, although I maintain that my inability to get a good apricot tops this whole ramp season business. (I also exaggerate, I have no idea how long ramp season is compared to other seasons, but people are freaking out about ramps, so I assume it's short.) Anyway, I also have no idea how ramps taste. Are they like leeks? Onions? They look like leeks and onions... I think. A wikipedia search could easily solve this problem but I prefer to keep it all mysterious because a) I've never ever seen ramps in a store near me and therefore they are pretty irrelevant to my life and b) whenever I hear the word "ramp," all I can possibly think about is this episode of "Rocky and Bullwinkle" with a "Fractured Fairy Tale" bit where Rapunzel's mother wants to eat rampion.

Anyway, so the upshot of all this is that I'd rather tie my concept of "ramps" to an obscure cartoon than find out what it actually is. At least for the sake of blogging about it, and now I'm going to look that shit up because now I'm wondering if ramps and rampion are the same thing. Or if the latter even exists. Plus! I have the immense pleasure of presenting you with this, the product of my YouTube search efforts, and truly awesome:

(Just so you know, ramps are wild leeks that taste kind of like onions and garlic, and rampion is some rando flower in Europe.)


Kim said...

It's not just Fractured Fairy Tales, you know. She really (in, um, real life?) did want rampion. Though why she wanted the flower and not the vegetable, I have no idea. And note: in every video production of Rapunzel I've seen (and yes, I've seen more than one), it looks an awful lot like a radish).

Lisbeth said...

Rampion, a "variety of European bellflower," has edible parts. I think it must be the same as "ramps." I show that video to my 8th-graders; after we read a traditional version of Rapunzel, we watch the wonderfully silly Rocky and "Boinkle" one.

H Stella Park said...

Ramps and rampion are not the same thing.

Ramps are Allium tricoccum aka wild leeks and are in the same family as onions and garlic. Ramps are available early in the spring and cannot be farmed (in the traditional sense), so you can typically only get them in season. They look like spring onions that have tender broad leaves (about 2in wide) with a reddish or purple stem and a small white bulb at the bottom. The taste is similar to a spring onion but more garlicky and more mild, or kind of like a very mild scallion that has a spinachy texture.
Yes the ramp season is short, but so is the season for fiddleheads and for green strawberries.
If you don't have your own personal source for them, chances are you will see them available for longer in stores and farmers markets in areas such as New England or Canada where the weather is cooler and plants take longer to mature.

Rampion are Campanula rapunculus and are also called rampion bellflower, rover bellflower, and, in German, rapunzel. We are more familiar with rapunzel than with rampion thanks to the Grimm brothers who wrote their story in German. And during the time the fairy tale was written, rapunzel was a very common garden and salad plant in many parts of Europe. It was grown for its versatility as the entire plant is edible. The leaves were used in salads and as a spinach substitute. The plant has a fleshy root that looks like a small parsnip that was used like a radish (hence it's radish-like appearance in cartoons or movies), and the flowers are also edible. It is still commonly grown and eaten in Europe, but hard to find in the US.