A few weeks ago I was given a big shopping bag full of ramps, also known as wild leeks. I decided to pickled the lot, as I wrote about in this post but first I had to solicit some advice on what to do with the greens. A quick text message went out to a chef friend. While I waited for a response on whether I was supposed to pickle the greens as well, I turned to google. Numerous possibilities came up in the search on what to do with these overly fragrant greens: sauteed, compound butter, with scrambled eggs, on a crostini, kimchi. Wait … what?! Ramp green kimchi? I stared at the computer screen, a little lightheaded from the ramps’ pungent garlic scent permeating my kitchen. It seemed like such a natural fit – one stinky thing transformed to another. The decision was instantaneous. It all happened faster than it took my friend to reply, which is to say less than 3 minutes. He said pickle the greens but it was too late. I love kimchi. Done.
Am I ever glad I did. This stuff is fantastic. Garlicky – holy hell is it garlicky – a little spicy and so very delicious but it’s a tough road to get there. This stuff is pungent. I would even venture to say it reeks. Taking something as strongly scented as ramps, add even more garlic and then leave them out to ferment takes a stiff upper lip and a certain tolerance for strong odors. On the second day I could smell this garlic bomb from the hallway outside my apartment, two floors down. Yes, I was that neighbor. While not altogether unpleasant it was, shall we say, bracing in the morning.
It’s a pretty easy if aromatic process too. Take those greens and toss them with basic stuff – sugar, salt, ginger, garlic and that wonderful Korean chile powder I adore plus a little soy and sesame oil. Leave the mixture out on the counter overnight to jumpstart the fermentation process then stash it in the fridge with a good stir every day for about a week. Then it’s done. Not much too it actually.
Do you need that special chile powder? Probably not, cayenne would probably work but use the real stuff if you can find it. Use it on everything actually because I really think it only comes in big giant bags. Ridiculously large bags. A staple of Korean cooking, I think it’s a law that 1 pound bags are the smallest increment. If you need some, let me know. I have enough for us all and I bought the “small” bag.
The kimchi process is essentially the same whether you’re using ramp greens, napa cabbage, scallions, daikon, cucumbers, or what have you plus salt, sugar, that chile powder, maybe other flavors like garlic or ginger. The most important ingredient is time. Let it sit. Just let it be. The mixture will start to break down and deepen in color and more importantly, flavor. Be brave.
My favorite way to enjoy kimchi is in a soup or most especially in a rice dish called bi bim bop. Rice topped with pickled vegetables, spicy bits, sauteed things and a good runny egg, it is a fantastic dish. For my sort of version on the fly, I sautéed a few vegetables – mushrooms with mirin and soy, carrots were blanched then glazed with a little sugar and chile paste and spinach with sesame. With a spicy chile sauce and those garlicky ramps greens mixed in, it was a wonderful lunch. I could eat this every day.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: STINKY GOOD. Yeah I know what you’re thinking. Why, oh why, would anyone voluntarily subject their household to this reeking concoction? Because it’s good. Really really good. For that reason alone, a few pungent days are a small sacrifice.
On this blog three years ago: Chino Farms & Strawberries from Heaven, Cucumber Kimchi
On this blog two years ago: Victory Gardens with the Peterson Garden Project
On this blog one year ago: Pasticceria Natalina
RAMP GREEN KIMCHI adapted from this recipe
Makes about 1 quart
Approximately 1 pound ramp greens, cleaned & thick stems removed
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons korean chili powder
1” piece fresh ginger, grated
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon soy sauce, low salt preferred
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 large container, glass or food-safe non-absorbent plastic, preferably with a tight fitting lid
- If needed, rinse the greens of any remaining dirt or debris.
- Stack several ramp leaves on top of each other and cut into 1” segments. Repeat with the remaining greens.
- Place the chopped greens in a large bowl and combine with all the remaining ingredients: salt, sugar, chile powder, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil.
- If you have a large container with a tight fitting lid, transfer the greens to this and snap the lid firmly in place. If not, keep it in the bowl and wrap the top tightly with plastic wrap. Leave out at room temperature overnight.
- After 24 hours, give the mixture a stir, tightly cover and transfer to the refrigerator.
- Every day for 6 more days, give the mixture a stir taking care to get the top pieces to the bottom for even fermentation, tightly cover and place back in the refrigerator.
- The kimchi should be ready by Day 7 – look for leaves that have softened and are a soft, dark green throughout (also known as not so fresh and crispy looking.)
- Transfer the mixture to a glass jar (a canning jar is perfect) and store in the refrigerator for up to a few months. The kimchi will get funkier over time as it continues to ferment.