Last week Berlin experienced a brief “heatwave.” The temperatures went all the way to the upper 70s and the population hit the sidewalks and parks in numbers I haven’t seen since last summer. Joe, a friend of mine in Berlin, and I decided to escape to the deep suburbs to see some “nature” and avoid the crowds. Of course there was a culinary aim to this adventure as well – to procure wild ramps.
Thanks to some sage advice from [ Berlin Plants ], our mission was a total success. It took an hour to reach the [ Botanischer Volkspark Pankow ], requiring trains, buses, trams and Ersatzverkehr, but the payoff was huge. A few steps into the forest revealed entire patches of wild ramps ready for the picking.
Ramps like shady, wet environments, and we found them growing along the side of streams and at the roots of the large trees that dotted the forest. The ramps were easy to spot – apart from their distinctive garlicky smell (one way to tell them apart from poisonous lookalikes like lily of the valley), they were just beginning to flower. Ramp flowers are white and come in spray-like clusters.
If you are going to forage for ramps, just make sure you do your own research first and bring plenty of pictures so that you don’t pick up the wrong plants. There are [lots of helpful sites] out there regarding wild edible plants.
Around here ramps are called Bärlauch, which means something like “bear’s garlic.” Cute, no? Ramps seem to have been “rediscovered” in American kitchens as a [ new, trendy ingredient ] a couple of years ago. To judge from menus at restaurants in Neukölln and Kreuzberg, ramp-mania has also hit Berlin. Bärlauch is not new to German cooking, however. Popular ways to use it include making it into a pesto or simply chopping the leaves and mixing them into butter to spread on hunks of bread.
Passing craze or not, ramps do have a delicious flavor – garlicky and oniony at the same time and a perfect match for other savory ingredients like eggs and bacon. Since I’m a huge fan of omelets at any time of day, a bag full of fresh ramps provided an excellent excuse to do breakfast for dinner that night. We bought a salty, triple-cream style cheese at Winterfeldmarkt, which worked well with the savory taste of the ramps. Served with an aperitif, this was the prefect way to end a successful day of foraging.
Speaking of aperitifs and omelets, as I compose this post I am sitting in a hostel lobby in Paris. I’m only here for a short time, but intend to do as much eating as I can, so next week I’ll be back with culinary reports. It’s my first time in France, so I’m hoping to have much to tell.
Omelet with Ramps, Bacon and Triple-Cream Cheese
Ingredients (for 1 omelet)
A handful of ramps (15-20 leaves)
3-4 strips of bacon
A piece (c. 50 grams) of soft, salty cheese (e.g. Délice de Bourgogne)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Prepare the ramps by thoroughly washing the leaves and stems and trimming off the bulbs if you have them. Save the bulbs for another dish like flavoring soups. Coarsely chop the leaves and set aside.
Fry the bacon in a medium-sized pan over low heat. If necessary add a drop of olive oil to the pan to keep the bacon from sticking.
Meanwhile, Beat the eggs with a few drops of water in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When the bacon is done, turn off the heat, remove it from the pan and chop. Pour off all but a tablespoon of the grease, supplementing with olive oil if necessary and then saute the ramp leaves in the grease over medium heat for a couple of minutes until wilted and fragrant.
Add the chopped bacon and then the beaten eggs, turning the pan so that the whole of the bottom is coated with the egg mixture. Over low heat, cook until the sides begin to firm. I like to use a rubber spatula to lift up the edges while tilting the pan so that the runny beaten egg in the middle disperses to the sides and cooks evenly.
When the bottom is firm, add the cheese and fold one half of the omelet over so that the edges meet. Over very low heat continue to cook just until the cheese melts, flipping the omelet over once or twice so that the outsides don’t burn.
Serve immediately with a salad or roasted potatoes.