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  • Writer's pictureChef Kelly Unger

Scallions, Ramps & Japanese Cuisine

The Doylestown Farmers Market opens this Saturday, April 15th from 8am to 1pm! Run, don't walk. There are so many delicious things arriving. From gorgeous produce, vegetable and herb plants for your garden to breakfast pastry (delicious croissant alert!!!), there is so much to see and eat!!

Ramps and scallions are in season too! But what are ramps and how do the differ from scallions? Ramps are a wild member of the allium or onion family and like very specific conditions in which to grow - dappled forest sunlight, on a slope, near water. Fussy, fussy. You can try to cultivate them, that is, plant them in your yard or garden if you plant the bulb with roots. But if they do come back the next year, it will take many years for them to spread. Chefs rely on professional foragers to obtain this highly prized, short season Prima Donna. Luckily for us, the good folks at Castle Valley Mill have them growing on their property in abundance.

Scallions are a cultivated member of the same family. The flavor of a ramp is indescribable really. Your tastebuds understand that it is in the onion family but its flavor is so unique. The green leaves are flat vs the hollow, pencil shaped leaves of the scallion. All parts of both are edible.

The easiest ways to enjoy ramps are sautéing or grilling. Chop the whole ramp (roots trimmed) and sauté in butter or oil for 2 minutes. Add them to ANYTHING: potatoes, butter, meat, eggs... literally anything. You can grill them whole, then chop them and do the same. Here are several ramp recipes when you're ready to play around:

This month I'll be talking about Japanese cuisine and the recipes I share for the farmers market's beautiful produce and products will reflect that. Scallions feature prominently in Japanese cuisine and they are a personal favorite of mine. I might be rightly accused of being scallion obsessed. Below, in addition to this week's scallion recipe, I'm also sharing two links to help introduce you to the Japanese way of eating.

First let’s talk about the important health benefits of scallions. As I mentioned, scallions are part of the allium/ onion family and everyone in this family is antibacterial, help rejuvenate the skin and protect the lungs, they are immune boosting, and help remove radiation, pathogens and toxic heavy metals. Scallions specifically also are loaded with vitamin C - 25% of your rdv - and vitamin K as well as being antiviral and antifungal. The green stems/leaves are full of fiber, so don’t leave those behind. All parts are edible and super healthy. Lightly trim the root and green ends. I’m not sure why recipes call for just using the white part. It may be a color preference on the part of the recipe author but in my opinion, there is no good reason to use just one part of the scallion. If you’ve been ditching the scallion greens, let me encourage you to reconnect with the whole part of this healing vegetable.

One of my favorite cookbooks about Japanese cuisine is Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. Some other Scallion recipes from this book are: Clams simmered in Sake with Scallions, Clear Fish Broth with Chopped Scallions, Grilled Tofu Pouches with Ginger and Scallions, & finally Somen with Ginger, Myoga and Scallions. When it comes to cutting vegetables in Japanese cuisine, most are finely diced, thinly sliced (like cucumbers) or julienned (very thin, long cuts like carrots and onions). A salt rubbing technique is also used with vegetables like cucumbers, napa cabbage and eggplant. This technique is used to soften the vegetable and draw out some of its water content so that the flavor is intensified.

Below is the link to a super delicious Japanese recipe - Negimaki or Beef Scallion Rolls. Head to Hershberger Heritage Farm and grab a flank steak or similar cut (but save one for me because I am 100% making this for Sunday's dinner). This recipe is super easy and delicious. Just serve with rice. Enjoy!

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