Forage & Feast – Ramps, Fiddleheads, & Stinging Nettles

Foraged ramps, with pork belly, nettle pasta with guanciale

After the success of the Cooklyn Improv event, Jonathan from Lab 24/7 and I decided to team up and do a spring Forage & Feast event. The concept was to get a group of fellow food fanatics together for a foraging trip up in Yonkers where we’d pick ramps, fiddleheads and stinging nettles then bring them back to The Lab to prepare a 5 course feast.

Foraging, Photographing and Fiddleheads

The spring bounty at this park is both beautiful and tasty with over a dozen edible plants in a narrow stretch of public park that runs along the Bronx River. Liz from Zested and I had a hard time choosing whether we wanted to forage or photograph, but we all had a good time.

Fields of wild ramps in Yonkers

It’s still early in the season, but the hillsides are already blanketed with pale green ramps. In case you’re not familiar with these springtime treats, they’re a member of the onion family and have broad tender tulip-like leaves and a small bulb at the bottom that gets bigger as the season progresses. They taste like a cross between garlic and leeks, making them the perfect onion to add to almost any savoury dish.

Foraged Grilled Ramps

Because of their brief season and short shelf life, ramps tend to be very expensive in markets, but if you live in the North Eastern US, they grow like weeds in many parks. We ended up using them in a few courses, but I think my favourite preparation is grilled with a little sea salt and olive oil as seen above.

Stinging nettles with tiny sharp needles

Stinging nettles have a wonderful green flavour that’s similar to wheat grass or mugwort, and is great for making teas, soups, purees or even pasta. As the name implies, they have tiny hollow needles that are filled with a toxic combo of formic acid, histamine and other nasty irritants that will burn initially and have you itching for hours. To avoid their angry wrath, gloves are a must when handling them and once you get them home, they need to be blanched or steamed before they can be eaten.

Cleaning Nettles, Fava Beans, and Meringue

After Giff from Constables Larder patiently cleaned a whole bag of nettles, we turned some of them into tempura, others where blanched and integrated into pasta dough, and the rest were pureed into a custard we had originally planned to make ice cream out of. Unfortunately, the ice cream maker was a no-show, so we had to improvise. Keep reading to see all the dishes we made, including the fate of the nettle custard.

Foraged Fiddleheads
The last thing we picked were fiddleheads, which are the curled sprouts of the ostrich fern. There are only a few species of fern that are edible and the leaves become inedible once they unfurl, so fiddleheads are a rare treat that can only be enjoyed a few weeks out of the year. It was still very early in the season and we thought we might be out of luck, but upon closer inspection, these gorgeous green shoots were literally popping up underfoot.

Bags full of prickly nettles, pungent ramps, and bitter garlic mustard, we filled up 3 cars and headed back to Lab 24/7 to cook up our feast.

Pickled ramps and a martini

To get the cooking off on the right foot, we all indulged in a potent pickled ramp martini. The pickles, which Stephane from Zen Can Cook made a few days earlier, were a huge hit and had to be hidden before they all disappeared.

Nettle Crème Anglaise

Here, there are three of us trying to figure out how to work the deep fryer, a bowl of nettle crème anglaise being strained and Claire from Colloquial Cooking, expertly whipping a bowl of juniper infused meringue.

Parmesan melting moments with crème fraiche and grilled ramps

Our first course was an amuse bouche of Parmigiano-Reggiano melting moments with crème fraiche and grilled ramps with a spritz of lemon juice. The Parmesan shortbread cookies melt into a pool of toasty cheese in your mouth along with the sweet grilled ramps, while the cool crème fraiche and lemon gave it a refreshing zing.

Ramp, Nettle, and Fiddlehead Tempura

Next up, we had ramp tempura, fiddlehead tempura and stinging nettle tempura that were served with yuzu salt and red shiso salt. Because tempura needs to be eaten straight out of the fryer, we just set out a plate on the counter with two bowls of salt for people to snack on as they cooked.

Foraged spring green fricassée with seared scallops on a bed of sunchoke milk puree

The seafood course was a delightful spring fricassée with seared scallops on a bed of sunchoke milk puree. The fricassée had fiddleheads, fava beans, and peas and the puree underneath was a rich sweet concoction that was simply a combo of sunchokes and milk that were cooked together until the sunchokes were soft which was then blitzed in a food processor for several minutes.

Stinging Nettle Pasta Carbonara

For the pasta course, we made a stinging nettle carbonara with fiddheads and guanciale. The nettles were blanched and integrated into the pasta dough and the cooked pasta was tossed with cheese, eggs, fiddleheads and crisped Guanciale.

Braised cured pork belly on a bed of sauted ramps and morels topped with pickled ramps

The spice cured pork belly with pickled ramps and caramel was truly the pièce de résistance of the meal. It started 3 days earlier with pork belly being cured in a spice rub at my place. The pickles on top were started around the same time at Stephane’s place, and through a series of covert hand-offs, they made their way to The Lab. The cured pork belly was washed, then braised with a bunch of herbs and veggies until it was on the verge of disintegrating. These tender cubes of melty pork were plated with sauteed ramps and morel mushrooms and topped with pickled ramps. Then to finish it off, a sweet, tangy caramel made from the pickling liquid and braising stock that was drizzled around the plate. A perfect balance of colors, textures, sweet, sour, salt and umami.

Ice cream with stinging nettle crème anglaise in caramelized juniper meringue cups

Finally, in keeping with the theme, we had planned to do a stinging nettle ice cream in juniper infused meringue cups. Unfortunately the ice cream maker never arrived, so we had a thin nettle custard we needed to do something with. Food hacker Marc Powell suggested we make a make-shift ice cream maker out of ziploc bags, ice, and salt, so as we ate the pork belly, we passed a double bag of ice and custard around the table and watched in wonder as this grade school science experiment made a bag of ice cream right before our eyes. We didn’t have time to freeze the nettle custard, so we served the first batch of ice cream in caramelized juniper meringue cups filled with stinging nettle crème anglaise.

Our first Forage & Feast was a great success and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year. Thanks to Jonathan for hosting us at The Lab and everyone else for participating!

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com/ lo

    I get so excited about ramps and fiddleheads in the spring… such lovely food!

    Love the idea of the nettle frozen custard!

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo

    I get so excited about ramps and fiddleheads in the spring… such lovely food!

    Love the idea of the nettle frozen custard!

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/ Holly

    These ingredients are very new to me. Are the fern shoots like Warabi? Everything looks great.

  • http://chefholly.typepad.com/ Holly

    These ingredients are very new to me. Are the fern shoots like Warabi? Everything looks great.

  • http://constableslarder.com/ Giff

    This was a blast. I so enjoyed your “ramps w/ olive oil and sea salt cooked under the broiler” that I did the same last night, before working ramps more fully into a roast chicken dish. A shame I wasn’t able to stay long enough to eat that gorgeous looking meal, but it was a ton of fun prepping alongside you and the gang. Great pics!

  • http://constableslarder.com Giff

    This was a blast. I so enjoyed your “ramps w/ olive oil and sea salt cooked under the broiler” that I did the same last night, before working ramps more fully into a roast chicken dish. A shame I wasn’t able to stay long enough to eat that gorgeous looking meal, but it was a ton of fun prepping alongside you and the gang. Great pics!

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com/ Stacey Snacks

    I’ll take a pickled ramp martini please.

    What a talented group of people. I would have been happy to do the dishes…..or clean those nettles! ouch!

    Would you believe after you told Henry about the ramps, etc., we found Ostrich ferns on the side of our house, and there they were!
    Now, what to do with the fiddleheads! I will save them for you.

  • http://staceysnacksonline.com Stacey Snacks

    I’ll take a pickled ramp martini please.

    What a talented group of people. I would have been happy to do the dishes…..or clean those nettles! ouch!

    Would you believe after you told Henry about the ramps, etc., we found Ostrich ferns on the side of our house, and there they were!
    Now, what to do with the fiddleheads! I will save them for you.

  • http://zested.wordpress.com/ Liz

    For the record, I cleaned a few of those nettles myself… and cleaned them… and cleaned them. Luckily, the ramp martini saw me through, and the ice cream was totally worth the work. Great post, thanks!

  • http://zested.wordpress.com Liz

    For the record, I cleaned a few of those nettles myself… and cleaned them… and cleaned them. Luckily, the ramp martini saw me through, and the ice cream was totally worth the work. Great post, thanks!

  • http://melaniemusings-melanie.blogspot.com/ Melanie

    wow!!I like foraging…your recipes are wonderful–

  • http://melaniemusings-melanie.blogspot.com/ Melanie

    wow!!I like foraging…your recipes are wonderful–

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    What a great foraged meal, Marc! Looks like Great Fun was had by all!

    And the parm melting moments experiment obviously turned out well–lovely!

    Love the rigged ice cream maker–hungry, creative folks prevail!

  • http://onlinepastrychef.wordpress.com/ Jenni

    What a great foraged meal, Marc! Looks like Great Fun was had by all!

    And the parm melting moments experiment obviously turned out well–lovely!

    Love the rigged ice cream maker–hungry, creative folks prevail!

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com/ Heather

    Damn, Marc, you all shamed my quaint little nettle dinner. This is outstanding, as I’ve come to expect from you and Stephane. Nice to find out about the other bloggers that collaborated, too.

    I’m still waiting for morels out here – won’t have any for another month or so, but I have an idea for a wild-gathered salsify pickle. Free food is awesome!

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    Damn, Marc, you all shamed my quaint little nettle dinner. This is outstanding, as I’ve come to expect from you and Stephane. Nice to find out about the other bloggers that collaborated, too.

    I’m still waiting for morels out here – won’t have any for another month or so, but I have an idea for a wild-gathered salsify pickle. Free food is awesome!

  • http://vixeninthekitchen.blogspot.com/ Kitchen Vixen

    This is SO awesome. I’m inspired to hit up the park and forest preserve and check for some ramps and fiddleheads. Not nettles. I’ll leave those to the pros!

  • http://vixeninthekitchen.blogspot.com Kitchen Vixen

    This is SO awesome. I’m inspired to hit up the park and forest preserve and check for some ramps and fiddleheads. Not nettles. I’ll leave those to the pros!

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    Another great meal and group effort. Sounds like a delicious lot of fun!

  • http://lisaiscooking.blogspot.com/ lisaiscooking

    Another great meal and group effort. Sounds like a delicious lot of fun!

  • http://www.deglazeme.blogspot.com/ Christina@DeglazeMe

    Wow, Marc, what an adventure!! Looks like you had a blast, and of course, the food look phenomenal!

  • http://www.deglazeme.blogspot.com Christina@DeglazeMe

    Wow, Marc, what an adventure!! Looks like you had a blast, and of course, the food look phenomenal!

  • http://www.practicallydone.com/ helen

    My goodness, this looks like such a fun event! And the food! Sign me up next year!

  • http://www.practicallydone.com helen

    My goodness, this looks like such a fun event! And the food! Sign me up next year!

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com/ _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver

    Fantastic! I’m surprised there were enough of the foraged items to serve this number of people. I like the ghetto “ice cream maker”. =)

  • http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver

    Fantastic! I’m surprised there were enough of the foraged items to serve this number of people. I like the ghetto “ice cream maker”. =)

  • Pingback: Ramps, Ramps, and Ramp Fritters — Constables Larder

  • http://pithyandcleaver.com/ maggie (p&c)

    This is so cool! For some reason I thought you had to go farther than Yonkers for ramps!

  • http://pithyandcleaver.com maggie (p&c)

    This is so cool! For some reason I thought you had to go farther than Yonkers for ramps!

  • http://www.peeandcue.blogspot.com/ Priscilla

    omg this looks amazing
    i wish i lived in the Northeast.

    P

  • http://www.peeandcue.blogspot.com Priscilla

    omg this looks amazing
    i wish i lived in the Northeast.

    P

  • http://www.whiskblog.com/ Shari

    I’d be on the “photograph” side of things too. Love your Forage & Feast event idea! Looks like a lot of fun!

  • http://www.whiskblog.com/ Shari

    I’d be on the “photograph” side of things too. Love your Forage & Feast event idea! Looks like a lot of fun!

  • http://stumptownsavoury.com/ Stumptown Savoury

    This was a delightful post. Except for not having anything to eat, I felt like I was right there in the kitchen with you.

    One thing I have to know is exactly how was that ice cream made? I’ve found myself cooking at someone’s home, wanting ice cream, and not having a machine, so I really want to try out the baggie method.

  • http://stumptownsavoury.com Stumptown Savoury

    This was a delightful post. Except for not having anything to eat, I felt like I was right there in the kitchen with you.

    One thing I have to know is exactly how was that ice cream made? I’ve found myself cooking at someone’s home, wanting ice cream, and not having a machine, so I really want to try out the baggie method.

  • http://www.eattoblog.com/ Howard

    I can’t even begin to tell you how jealous I am…

  • http://www.eattoblog.com Howard

    I can’t even begin to tell you how jealous I am…

  • http://www.foodgal.com/ Carolyn Jung

    What a wonderful outting. That’s really a local feast, and one that definitely keeps it real.

  • http://www.foodgal.com Carolyn Jung

    What a wonderful outting. That’s really a local feast, and one that definitely keeps it real.

  • http://www.whatdoiwant2cooktoday.blogspot.com/ Jan

    Great post and I’m loving all that yummy food especially those seared scallops!!
    Ps; you have another mention over at my blog.

  • http://www.whatdoiwant2cooktoday.blogspot.com Jan

    Great post and I’m loving all that yummy food especially those seared scallops!!
    Ps; you have another mention over at my blog.

  • http://passionateeater.blogspot.com/ Passionate Eater

    I love your innovation with your foraging and feasting idea. I saw the recent episode of Chopped where the cheftestants had to cook with materials foraged from Central Park, and as I am with this post, I was truly impressed.

  • http://passionateeater.blogspot.com Passionate Eater

    I love your innovation with your foraging and feasting idea. I saw the recent episode of Chopped where the cheftestants had to cook with materials foraged from Central Park, and as I am with this post, I was truly impressed.

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ colloquial cook

    Haha, great post! I look like I’ve been smoking those fiddleheads instead of baking them :-D
    I still have dreams about that pork belly. Good times!

  • http://colloquialcookin.canalblog.com/ colloquial cook

    Haha, great post! I look like I’ve been smoking those fiddleheads instead of baking them :-D
    I still have dreams about that pork belly. Good times!

  • http://goldilocksfindsmanhattan.blogspot.com/ ulla

    What a totally awesome idea! The photos look great:)

  • http://goldilocksfindsmanhattan.blogspot.com/ ulla

    What a totally awesome idea! The photos look great:)

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com/ elra

    I see some familiar blogger here, seem so happy and lots of fun. I am jealous, wish I was there. Look at all of those dish you prepared, wow. They look so delicious.
    Cheers.
    elra

  • http://elrasbaking.blogspot.com elra

    I see some familiar blogger here, seem so happy and lots of fun. I am jealous, wish I was there. Look at all of those dish you prepared, wow. They look so delicious.
    Cheers.
    elra

  • http://eatdrinknbmerry.com/ eatdrinknbmerry

    that sounds like a lot of fun. i hope something like that manifests in LA! i’m really curious as to what i could possibly forage in my city besides trash.

  • http://eatdrinknbmerry.com eatdrinknbmerry

    that sounds like a lot of fun. i hope something like that manifests in LA! i’m really curious as to what i could possibly forage in my city besides trash.

  • http://zencancook.com/ Zenchef

    It was great fun marc! Hope to do it again sometimes.
    Who knew nettles could be so delicious as a custard/ice cream!? I learned something new that day.

  • http://zencancook.com Zenchef

    It was great fun marc! Hope to do it again sometimes.
    Who knew nettles could be so delicious as a custard/ice cream!? I learned something new that day.

  • http://www.pithyandcleaver.com/ shiv

    oh, ramps, I’m still seeking them; i always seem to hit the market just a moment too late!

    Gorgeous pictures–what camera/lenses do you use?

  • http://www.pithyandcleaver.com shiv

    oh, ramps, I’m still seeking them; i always seem to hit the market just a moment too late!

    Gorgeous pictures–what camera/lenses do you use?

  • http://www.slim-shoppin.com/ Jennifer

    I wish I could have come to that party Marc! What a great escapade!!

    All your dishes look amazing!!

  • http://www.slim-shoppin.com Jennifer

    I wish I could have come to that party Marc! What a great escapade!!

    All your dishes look amazing!!

  • http://diaryofafanaticfoodie.com/ Heather

    so many eclectic foods i’ve never gotten to try! they all sound delicious!

  • http://diaryofafanaticfoodie.com Heather

    so many eclectic foods i’ve never gotten to try! they all sound delicious!

  • http://cyclingcook.blogspot.com/ Sam

    Wow, everything looks amazing! I wish I’d have been there!

  • http://cyclingcook.blogspot.com/ Sam

    Wow, everything looks amazing! I wish I’d have been there!

  • Annie C

    Nice coverage of the foraging and the final product. Wish I had been there to try them!

  • Annie C

    Nice coverage of the foraging and the final product. Wish I had been there to try them!

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com/ The Duo Dishes

    Well this is beyond the beyonds of eating off the land. Everything in this post looks delightful, and of course, your photography is bomb! You’re good…real good.

  • http://duodishes.wordpress.com The Duo Dishes

    Well this is beyond the beyonds of eating off the land. Everything in this post looks delightful, and of course, your photography is bomb! You’re good…real good.

  • http://brooklynfarmhouse.com/ megan (brooklyn farmhouse)

    Oh Marc (sigh). This looks amazing. I’m seriously shedding a little tear.

  • http://brooklynfarmhouse.com megan (brooklyn farmhouse)

    Oh Marc (sigh). This looks amazing. I’m seriously shedding a little tear.

  • http://sassandveracity.com/ kellypea

    I read about this at Constable’s Larder and seeing it from another perspective has made me even more green with envy that you all got together to find and make this food. Oh, the ramps, and the scallops, and…just fabulous.

  • http://sassandveracity.com kellypea

    I read about this at Constable’s Larder and seeing it from another perspective has made me even more green with envy that you all got together to find and make this food. Oh, the ramps, and the scallops, and…just fabulous.

  • http://blog.lemonpi.net/ Y

    Rather envious of your foraging and feasting! I haven’t eaten ferns in ages, and really miss them!

    Love how the ice-cream making was a group effort :D

  • http://blog.lemonpi.net Y

    Rather envious of your foraging and feasting! I haven’t eaten ferns in ages, and really miss them!

    Love how the ice-cream making was a group effort :D

  • Pingback: Kumquat Lamb Tagine | Dinner

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    just read this over at the 24/7 blog but i thought i’d comment here. i am honestly in awe of what you all did at this event. in fact, the food looks so amazing, professional and creative that i’m actually afraid to attend one of these events!! you guys are intimidating with your talent! it’s amazing you are all food bloggers (w/ the exception of stephane who actually works in the business) – you are good. i just wish i was there to help eat it all. that pork belly really looks like it’s to die for.

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ we are never full

    just read this over at the 24/7 blog but i thought i’d comment here. i am honestly in awe of what you all did at this event. in fact, the food looks so amazing, professional and creative that i’m actually afraid to attend one of these events!! you guys are intimidating with your talent! it’s amazing you are all food bloggers (w/ the exception of stephane who actually works in the business) – you are good. i just wish i was there to help eat it all. that pork belly really looks like it’s to die for.

  • Pingback: “Why Not a Vegetable Sorbet?” I Ask You. And, of Course, You Love the Idea. Right? « Pastry Methods and Techniques

  • http://www.thefiddleheadloop.com/ Corissa St. Laurent

    Hi there,
    Loved this piece on all the yummy, wild edibles available this time of year. I’m the Editorial Director for a New England regional magazine on living sustainably, called The Fiddlehead Loop. We are including some information on fiddlehead foraging in our May issue (of course!). I was wondering if I could use one of the beautiful photos of the fiddleheads emerging from the ground. Please let me know! Thanks very much and happy foraging! -Corissa St. Laurent

  • http://www.thefiddleheadloop.com Corissa St. Laurent

    Hi there,
    Loved this piece on all the yummy, wild edibles available this time of year. I’m the Editorial Director for a New England regional magazine on living sustainably, called The Fiddlehead Loop. We are including some information on fiddlehead foraging in our May issue (of course!). I was wondering if I could use one of the beautiful photos of the fiddleheads emerging from the ground. Please let me know! Thanks very much and happy foraging! -Corissa St. Laurent

  • http://www.thefiddleheadloop.com/ Corissa St. Laurent

    Please let me know at: corissa@thefiddleheadloop.com.
    Thank you!

  • http://www.thefiddleheadloop.com Corissa St. Laurent

    Please let me know at: corissa@thefiddleheadloop.com.
    Thank you!

  • http://oysterculture.wordpress.com/ OysterCulture

    What a brilliant post, I loved it! Very timely, so many folks are covering one of the three ingredients and you incorporated them all. I really enjoyed reading, thanks so much for sharing.

  • http://oysterculture.wordpress.com OysterCulture

    What a brilliant post, I loved it! Very timely, so many folks are covering one of the three ingredients and you incorporated them all. I really enjoyed reading, thanks so much for sharing.

  • Pingback: Grasping The Nettle

  • Tanya

    This is… one of the most gorgeous posts I’ve ever seen! I want to cry with jealousy over this foraging and feast. I’m going out with the boyfriend right now and we are going to imitate to the best of our inexperienced potential. So there!

  • Tanya

    This is… one of the most gorgeous posts I’ve ever seen! I want to cry with jealousy over this foraging and feast. I’m going out with the boyfriend right now and we are going to imitate to the best of our inexperienced potential. So there!

  • http://cookerati.com/ Diana

    You guys really worked for your dinner, but that’s one of the best ways to be creative with your food. Great post, and looks like an equally great dinner.

  • http://cookerati.com Diana

    You guys really worked for your dinner, but that’s one of the best ways to be creative with your food. Great post, and looks like an equally great dinner.

  • Herkkusuun lautasella

    Have been thinkigna bout trying fiddleheads since last year when i came to think of it too late, so am hoping to do it this year and am really thirilled when it’s a go but so far it has been too early to pick them here in tampere, finland. just got back from picking nettles that are probably going to end us as quiche, soup and ravioli later on.

  • Pingback: Sauteed Fern Fiddle Heads | A Less Than Perfect Homemaker

Welcome!

I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

California Roll
Grilled Fish with Green Mango Pico de Gallo
Inspiration comes in many forms
No Recipes vol. 14
Tarragon Tagliatelle with Sea Urchin Butter
Kkakdugi (radish kimchi)
Best Eggs Benedict
Masoor Dal