Duck Fat and Ramps

When I moved here, I did not know that the words in the above title referred to things that are edible.

A few days ago, I walked with a neighbor on a new path in a nearby hardwood forest.  We smelled onion-y growth and saw green, gorgeous plants pushing up out of the dreary brown of dead leaves.  We figured out pretty quickly that the plants growing in the dampish areas of the forest floor were ramps: plants I had heard about but had never found for myself.

IMG_5055I read a bit about them, then returned with a little hand shovel and a bucket, ready to try something new.  All it took was 20 minutes or so to get plenty – enough for us and enough to share with two neighbors.

Ramps are wild leeks.  They are in the lily family and are related to onions and garlic.  They can be substituted in any recipe that calls for green onions.  I washed them, saved some for later, then cut the rest and threw them in a pan for sautéing.

IMG_5083IMG_5079IMG_5077 (1)

But here’s something else new: just last week, my neighbors who happen to own one of the best restaurants in Door County texted to say they had just put a present on our porch.  Who, after days inside with only a husband and dog, wouldn’t rush to the door and call after them to come back for a little socially-distanced conversation?

I’m sure I am probably revealing some gaucherie* to those of you who enjoy fine dining and gourmet pleasures, but to be honest, I was a little less than enthusiastic to discover that the present they left me was duck fat. I tried to be appreciative. I tried to cover up my skepticism.


Whenever you’d use olive oil, use duck fat instead, Larry offered.  He also said, “We rendered two ducks earlier this week.”  Certainly we are all finding ways to cope with quarantine, but there are probably not too many people who can come out of 2020 saying that.

So when those ramps needed to be sautéed, it seemed like the perfect time to trust the words of a restauranteur ( especially one whose food is exquisite.)

If you are like me, it is far easier to revert to what’s easy and familiar in these days of quarantine than to challenge myself to improve or change.   I have to push myself to do more than I need to. Somehow making a chocolate cake (and enjoying it) is easier than exercise. Listening to music is easier than sitting down to play the piano poorly and work to get better. Cleaning can happen tomorrow instead of today. I admire people who are using this time to be creative, because being creative is hard work.

So I count it a small victory  that I did something new. I used the duck fat and found that it really isn’t so scary after all.  And yes, ramps are only wild onions from a forest, but it felt significant to dig those edible gifts from the loamy soil and make something yummy as a result.  It was just ramp pasta yesterday and Potato Ramp soup today, but they were gifts nonetheless. Duck fat and ramps. Who knew I could be so grateful for two things so strange and so simple?


*gaucherie: lack of social grace, sensitivity, or acuteness; awkwardness; crudeness; tactlessness.


4 thoughts on “Duck Fat and Ramps

  1. My neighbor just invited me to share her wild leek and potato soup. Delicious!
    She found the wild leeks growing in her woods. Your photos could be in a gourmet cookbook!


  2. Bravo for stepping out of your comfort area. The bravest thing I’ve done while in lockdown is try baking with boxed mixes in our farm pantry from dates which expired four to seven years ago! Results: cookies were ok; breads didn’t rise. I even use boxed cake mix for waffles — not bad. Stay safe.


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