This On the Table recipe for foraged ramp pesto will make your heart sing.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

I’m nervous to admit this, but I once asked myself if ramps were overrated. Did I just say that out loud? Every spring, ramps become such a menu and media darling that, one year, I couldn’t help but wonder if we all love them so much simply because they are the first edible plant that is brave enough to emerge from the still snow-patched woods. Do we flock toward them because they are the only thing to flock toward this early in the season?

That same spring, I wiggled my way into my rain boots anyway, side-stepping down the wet, slippery slope of our ravine. Motivated by some potent combination of principle and obligation, I foraged a small basketful and brought them back to our mudroom sink, where I rinsed bits of dark Midwestern soil off the blush pink stems. As my paring knife sliced into that first ramp, the fresh cut released its notorious aroma—equal parts onion, garlic and earth, all far more potent than whatever core values took me to the woods in the first place. In that single pungent breath, I was assured that this is no overrated allium. Quite to the contrary, foraged ramps are the hard-fought prize we’ve earned after a long, gray winter.

This spring, give these wild treasures the glory they deserve by making ramp pesto with Michigan black walnuts. Ramp pesto can be served inside ravioli, twirled around tagliatelle, used as a spread for sandwiches, smeared across a plate underneath roasted potatoes and more. My firstborn—as wild as ramps himself—has been known to devour this recipe straight from the jar, spoon to mouth. Don’t make me rate hugging him goodnight after such a choice.

Read Next: How To Harvest, Clean and Store Wild Leeks

Photo by Dave Weidner

Ramp Pesto with Black Walnuts
Makes 2 heaping cups

8 ounces washed ramps
1/2 cup chopped black walnuts
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
Juice from half a lemon, about 2 Tablespoons
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Roughly chop the ramp stems and leaves, and set aside.
  2. Warm a dry, cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When it is hot but not yet smoking, add the black walnuts. Shake the pan from time to time, toasting the walnuts until they are golden brown and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, add the chopped ramps and olive oil to a food processor, pulsing until just combined. Once the ramps and olive oil are incorporated, add the walnuts, cheese, lemon juice and salt, whizzing the mixture for 1 minute, until it is a consistency that hovers between a schmear and a drizzle. Season with a few grindings of freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Stacey Brugeman is a 20-year food and beverage journalist. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater, Midwest Living and on Instagram @staceybrugeman. // Dave Weidner is an editorial photographer and videographer based in Northern Michigan. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook @dzwphoto. // Sarah Peschel, @22speschel, is a stylist and photographer with an appreciation for all things local agriculture, food and drink.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner / Styling by Sarah Peschel