Essays: The Leek Shall Inherit the Earth

April 19, 2013

We're giving you essays about food, written by the Food52 community, to read over your morning coffee. Want to share your story? Send it to us at [email protected].

One morning in late winter, you rise, scratch yourself; you want to be up and doing. After a long winter's fiction of turnips and tubers and the pulp of the pomelo, you feel the signs of early spring upon you. The drastic need for man-scaping, thoughts of the Final Four, and yes! the strains of Aaron Copeland leading you to the farmers market – to find – what? Acacia honey-flavored stout in 750ml bottles? At this point, you are hungry, and maybe a little fallow and pale from lack of sun. Even a stale Ritz tastes like a Batali feast in the mouth of a starving man.

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And what noxious weed is this you see before you? The limp and the limpid ramp, a spring onion in need of puberty, a leek in need of Viagra. Like a vapid pop song that was on everyone’s spin list last summer, you thought the fad had passed, embarrassingly, but here they are yet again, calling you, maybe. 

In the hands of unseasoned cooks, you find garlic-ramp burgers: the pickled ramps tangoing double time with ramp-infused vodka tomatoes, baby gem lettuce culled from a back lot in East Williamsburg (sorry, Bushwick) only to be deconstructed to look like moss, polluting spring menus in hipstaurants across town. 

This garnish, this bit player, this mere afterthought, is, for a two week period, elevated to starring role. And worse, when hack-cooks pickle the bastards, you see them drooped over protein and drowning in cocktails for months afterwards.

Young chefs delve into trendy, amateur cuisine as though they snuck Papa’s Porsche out of the garage and did a spin at Le Mans without a learners' permit. They have the drive and the equipment, but they lack the experience. They follow Chef Lemming and his Merry Band of Bleaters to the white cliffs and hurl themselves into the void of ramp pizzas, chocolate dipped ramps, ramp baos, and Bubba Ramp’s Ramp Co. Sometimes restraint can be the grace behind the art. 

As for me, I will get tucked back into bed for another few weeks under my official Nigella Lawson bed spread and dream of sweet English peas and stinging nettles, earthy morels, and white asparagus.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • amy_vt
  • Panfusine
  • petitbleu
  • sstalnaker
  • Brian Cronin
    Brian Cronin
John Winterman

Written by: John Winterman

His experience has led him from Indiana to Colorado, Chicago to San Francisco and finally New York where he runs the dining room at Daniel with grace and aplomb. Aer work he can usually be found studying the abstract over pints of ale at the Spotted Pig.


amy_vt April 23, 2013
I look forward to foraging for them every spring. They are the first wild food I can find after a long winter and I pickle the bulbs and make compound butter with them. Nothing fancy, I just want to keep them for as long as possible because they are so fleeting.
Panfusine April 22, 2013
As much as I love these 'weeds'.. I'm going to Pass them on this season, My current obsession at this time of the year happens to be the mammoth Jackfruit, the fresh ones!
petitbleu April 21, 2013
Well-written, but a shame that we have to outgrow every food, regardless of its merits, once it's out of fashion or has become overused in restaurant settings. It sounds as if the author eats out a lot. We don't. Ramps are still a big deal in our kitchen--ephemeral, wild, delicious.
sstalnaker April 20, 2013
I understand that some don't like ramp, buy when I found a patch growing in the woods behind our house I was delighted. I grew up in the hills of West Virginia where Ramp Feeds occur at every country church worth its salt. In spite of this my father hated ramps and so I never tasted one until last week when I sauteed some in some nice european butter with some preserved Meyers lemons. They were sweet with a subtle oniony/garlicky flavor, the perfect compliment to a nice roast chicken with roasted potatoes and carrots.

Perhaps they are overused as a garnish where their impact is less than successful. Perhaps cooks try make them more than they are (I too roll my eyes a bit at a Ramptini), but prepared simply and with care I have found them to be every bit as delicious as asparagus, artichokes, or other foods long revered as the epitome of seasonal produce.
Brian C. April 19, 2013