Preserving Ramps and Dehydrator Thoughts

ramps - Food in Jars

Ramps are members of the onion family that grow wild throughout the eastern US and Canada. They are one of the first fresh, edible things that appear each spring, and in recent years, have developed something of an obsessive following among the foodie set. (They’re so popular that we’re now facing issues around overharvesting.)

ramp roots - Food in Jars

Traditionally, people would forage their own ramps, but these days we urban dwellers can often find them at our local farmers markets and farmstands. Several vendors at my local market had them for $16 a pound and I treated myself to a precious $10 worth.

excalibur dehydrator - Food in Jars

I had a pair of plans for those ramps. I wanted to pickle the root ends, and dehydrate the leaves so that I could grind them into powder. The dehydration plan came to be thanks to my recent obsession with the Bar Tartine cookbook (thanks to Karen Solomon for making sure I understood its greatness) as well as the fact that the folks from Excalibur sent me one of their stackable dehydrators to play with this season.

dehydrator trays with ramps - Food in Jars

For years now, Excalibur dehydrators have been the gold standard for both home and commercial dehydration. Part of their appeal has long been the fact that their trays slide in and out (rather than stacking) and they didn’t require a central hole for air circulation. The downside of these models has been their high price point.

More recently, they brought to market a stackable model that is more affordable, but still incorporates their vast dehydration expertise.

crisp ramp stems - Food in Jars

It’s this more price accessible model that they sent me to use. While I still long for one of their fancy models that allows you to do things like make fruit leather without working around the hole and move trays without needing to stack and readjust, this unit is a very large step up from the Nesco dehydrator I’ve been using since 2009.

ramp roots in jars - Food in Jars

So far, I’m really pleased with this unit. It comes with non-stick protector sheets and two trays for making fruit leather. The squared shape means that you can get a goodly amount on the trays (even working around the central hole). It runs far more quietly than my old model. And while it sounds like a silly thing, I so appreciate the on/off switch (you turned on my old Nesco by plugging it into the wall).

crisp leaves in blender - Food in Jars

Now, let’s talk a little more about my ramp pickles and powder. The pickle is a basic one. I didn’t do anything more than trim the roots off, and tuck what remained in a pint jar with small pinches of red chili flakes, black peppercorns, and mustard seeds.

ground ramp leaves - Food in Jars

I combined 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt in a measuring cup and microwaved it until the salt was dissolved. Then I poured the hot brine over the ramps stems and let it sit on the counter until it was cool enough to go into the fridge. Done.

ramp leaf powder - Food in Jars

Once the leaves were totally crisp, I put them into the container for my Vitamix and blended until they were mostly powdered. A perfectionist might have sifted out the larger pieces and run them through the a spice grinder, but I was happy with imprecise textural mix.

ramp powder jar - Food in Jars

My plan is to use this funky, oniony powder to enhance vinaigrettes, dips, and sauces (I’m planning on stirring some into plain yogurt this weekend to eat with hummus and pita). The pickles will be diced and stirred into grain salads all summer long.

What have you been preserving lately? Any late spring favorites?

Disclosure: As I mentioned above, Excalibur sent me the dehydrator you see above. I will be featuring it throughout the summer and fall. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. 

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11 Responses to Preserving Ramps and Dehydrator Thoughts

  1. 1
    Lori says:

    I love dehydrating! Especially apples because I know it’s not added chemicals. I have even dehydrated zucchini to make zucchini chips. I preserved my daughter’s wedding flowers in the dehydrator. Glad to see an article on a different dehydrator than mine (I have the same Nesco one). My family loves jerky too, so I have used my machine a lot!

  2. 2
    Denise says:

    Can you recommend any cookbooks or blogs with tips or recipes for dehydrating? I have a dehydrator that I’ve never used but would love to learn since it would save space in my freezer.

  3. 3
    Sheri says:

    I’m probably biased because I did my externship at Bar Tartine and I recipe tested for Nick and Cortney while they were working on the book – but I love this book, and I’m always so happy when someone discovers it!

    I gained a major love and appreciation for dehydrators when I worked at the restaurant. It helped me get out of the mindset of fruit jerky and apple chips and now I use mine extensively.

    One of the things I find useful is to use it to concentrate and reduce moisture – onion jam, apple butter, pepper paste. I just dehydrated a batch of kimchi (the chips were delicious, but I ground most of it into a powder). At the restaurant, they’re using a fermented and dehydrated pepper paste to make their own harissa. I’ve made powder out of lemons, olives, yogurt, herbs, hatch chilies… you name it. I feel like I’ve barely begun to learn how useful a dehydrator can be.

  4. 4
    Carol Milstein says:

    I’ve been on a ramp craze this year Ran across a Momofuku recipe for pickled ramps, and made them (delicious, but decidedly spicy), sauteed and used on pizza, and used them in a spring stir fry with asparagus and morels (decadent!!!). I have one bunch left, and will use them with shrimp tonight on pasta. But – I have a bunch of green garlic leaves that I plan to dehydrate to use in the winter. Can’t wait!. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. 5
    Karin G says:

    While these ramp products have the same effect on the body odor associated with Ramos? Or will it be negligible? I have my own ramp patch but time my eating around my social activities😛K

  6. 6
    Sandy Artus says:

    Thanks for posting. I have wanted a nice small unit for my kitchen – and the 9 tray is huge.

  7. 7
    Jen says:

    Ramp greens kimchi is my favorite spring preserve. I just picked a bunch of ramps today for this year’s batch. And yesterday I put together an experimental batch of rhubarb-fennel kimchi. I haven’t tasted it yet, but I have high hopes.

  8. 8
    e says:

    My daughter has a dehydrator that she doesn’t use and I think I might borrow it from her for the season. There’s a bunch of stuff I’d like to dry.

    Also, just made your Rhubarb Syrup from the first book. Fantastic! Everyone loved it! We ran through two half-pint jars in an afternoon!

  9. 9

    […] days, I’m using the new Excalibur stackable dehydrator that I wrote about here. I particularly love the fact that it comes with the mesh screens that make it easier to remove the […]

  10. 10

    […] has long been one of the tools in my food preservation toolbox. I like to dehydrate herbs and ramp leaves, make tasty marinated and dried tomatoes, and put up some of my precious Meyer lemons by drying […]

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