If you’ve been keeping up with the latest culinary crazes, you may know that ramps — which are a type of wild onion that is commonly called a wild leek — are all the rage. The vegetable’s white bulb resembles a scallion, but it has flat, broad leaves; many people say it tastes like a mixture of garlic and onions. It grows riotously on the East Coast, and has become so popular that entire festivals now revolve around it. One such celebration is Hudson’s Ramp Fest, which this year takes place on May 4. Jeffrey Gimmel, owner of the city’s Swoon Kitchenbar, and his friend Alison Riley launched this culinary shindig in 2011. This year’s event features around 16 restaurants — local notables include the Crimson Sparrow and Tivoli’s Panzur — each of which prepare a dish with ramps as the key ingredient. “The creativity around the ramp is impressive,” says Riley. “We’ve had everything: ramp pizza, sorbet, meatballs, even pop tarts.” In addition to unique food offerings, a band is slated to entertain, and wine and beer will be available.
Ramp Fest has grown exponentially: In the first year, 300 guests attended; that number nearly doubled in 2012. This year they’re prepared for 1,000. But with so much attention now being paid to this humble plant, there is concern that the crop may be dwindling. One way around this conundrum is to pick the leaves, but to leave the bulbs in the ground so they continue to grow. Riley says Ramp Fest supports this practice: “We make our position on that clear to participating chefs. We would never want to contribute to the decreasing supply.”
Ramp Fest takes place at Basilica Hudson on Front Street, beginning at noon. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. For more information, visit www.rampfesthudson.com.