Rapunzel is a perfect culinary story, but it also poses a problem: how do you make a dish when the main ingredient is impossible to find? This is the problem I ran into with rampion salad…
Every vegetable book I looked at said the same thing – that rampion was commonly grown in European kitchen gardens because it was so widely used in cooking. The key word here is was. In Italy, rampion was a recorded ingredient as early as the 15th century. In England, it was the vegetable of choice during Shakespeare’s time.
Rampion was so popular because it’s really versatile. Both the leaves and roots can either be eaten raw or cooked. When raw, the leaves have a slightly bitter flavor and work great in salads. When cooked, rampion roots have a nutty flavor. You can eat rampion on its own or use it to add flavor to a dish. All in all it sounds like a pretty awesome ingredient.
However, despite its popularity for hundreds of years, rampion isn’t really used anymore and is rare now. Other vegetables, like spinach, lettuce, asparagus and radishes, became popular and took its place. And while rampion still grows wild in parts of Europe, the bottom line is that it’s extremely hard to find. In fact, I looked in farmers’ markets in London, France, New York, Florida, Las Vegas and California with no luck. You can actually buy seeds online and grow some yourself, but I’m not so good with plants.
So to make things easier on all of us, I improvised. Luckily, rampion shares characteristics with a few readily available vegetables: it has the leaves of spinach, the cooked roots taste like asparagus and the stalks and flowers are like ramps (aka wild garlic). Ramps are particularly key – as Daniella mentioned, ramps and rampion get confused as the same plant because they’re so similar. Both ramps and rampion have edible flowers, and the leaves and roots can be used in complementary ways. So I decided to include ramps in our modern recreation of rampion salad. It’s earthy, delicious, very healthy and filling.
The other vegetables I used are easily available during the same seasons and in the same areas where rampion grows. Together, they make a hearty salad. One you’d scale a wall and steal from a witch to try.
- 70 g ramps (reserve stalks and 1/3 of the leaves for the dressing)
- 32 g endive
- 32 g spinach
- 20 g watercress
- 20 g miners lettuce (or winter purslane)
- 500 g fava beans
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 bunch Easter egg radish lumels , thin shaves
- 20 g white wine vinegar
- 10 g lemon juice
- 30 g ramps
- 150 g olive oil
- 2 g chili flake
- Salt and pepper
TO MAKE THE DRESSING
Take two leaves of the ramps and thinly slice.
Marinate in the lemon juice 20 minutes.
Add white wine vinegar and blend, slowly drizzling in olive oil until the acidity is to your liking.
Season with chili flakes, salt and pepper.
FOR THE SALAD
Remove the stalks of the ramps, the leaves and the flowers.
Clean and blanch the fava beans.
Halve the asparagus and grill with the ramps stalks and 1/3 of the leaves.
Tear the raw ramps leaves and spinach and place in a mixing bowl.
Thinly slice the radish on a mandolin or carefully using a very sharp knife.
Mix all ingredients together, dress, and check for seasoning.