The annual greening of the world has begun again in our area. We wait for it longer than many others must wait. That anxious interval seems interminable while the sun and the rain wipe away all final traces of the snow; moisten those winter browned branches; and warm that dull, grey-browned ground. Then suddenly, as though chomping at the bit, the entire culture of green that has been at the earth’s starting line, bursts out. Within a week, vibrant, deep and light, willow-yellow greens appear on every surface and horizon. All that energetic, fertile growth runs rampant across our landscapes.
The famous Lerner and Loewe’s Guinevere understood exactly the purpose of such a time -“When all the world is brimming with fun, wholesome or “un” and “The time for every frivolous whim, proper or “im”. Isn’t it delicious to be so shocked and shocking? Even in our cynical times, hopeful springtime maypoles still appear. Our hearts can be so uplifted as to catch a thermal drift and soar without apparent rhyme or reason. It is hardly a wonder that spring is anticipated and welcomed with fervor.
Of course, there are other whims to indulge too, such as the wild forage of ramps, mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns. Ramps are a uniquely flavored American green that some call a cross between a wild leek and an onion. They grow nowhere else in the world except from New England, down through most of the Appalachias and west to Wisconsin. Their long bladed leaves are one of the first greens to show themselves. Attempts to cultivate ramps commercially have been ineffective as it takes seven years to grow from seed. Transplanting has been only slightly more successful, though not in commercial proportions. When a patch becomes content in its environment, it will spread, leaving their bulbs and roots to cleave to one another like Guinevere and Lancelot. Given their exceptionally short season of about six to eight weeks, ramp devotees share the short-lived bounty only with precious few. So gather ye ramps while ye may.
Asparagus is another early earth breaker. Up, up they come, standing to military attention, to demand their due measure of springtime merit. What could be better than to combine their unique qualities with those of the ramp? Which is precisely what we did for this week’s recipe, Ramp and Asparagus Pasta with Buratta. Buratta is a fresh, very rich Italian Buffalo milk cheese composed of an outer shell of mozzarella and a dense creamy inside. In a pinch, you can substitute a fresh ricotta. There really isn’t a substitute for ramps. Don’t forget to check out the market web site for other ramp and asparagus recipes.