Wild onions (“ramps”) are among my favorite spring wild edibles. Much like a cross between an onion and garlic, they provide an earth-toned and yet spicy flavor base for soups, marinades, and dressings.
In many places, ramps thrive for a couple of weeks in April or May, only to mysteriously vanish. During my annual mid-May fly-fishing and camping trip in Southeastern Minnesota, ramps can be found in abundance on the forest floor next to my favorite trout stream. By the end of May, they are gone.
Do an online search for “wild onions” and learn to identify them. If necessary, consult your local park ranger for advice. Once you start picking them (which is very easy) there is no shortage of ways to use them.
Two years ago, during my May camping trip, I picked a bundle of ramps and put them in the same bag as my trout. Voila! Some of the ramps crept into the trout, sparking the idea for ramp-stuffed trout. That night, I stuffed and then roasted my fish over the campfire. My girlfriend told me it was the most delicious fish she’d ever tasted!
I share my recipe below. If you do not have ramps available to you, try substituting shallots. The recipe works equally well over an open fire or on a barbecue grill. If you use a grill, place the fish on a cedar plank for flawless results. (In my last column, I share tips about how to use a cedar plank.)
2-3 medium-sized trout, dressed
1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons ramps (wild onions) or shallots, finely chopped (use mainly the tender white and purple shoots but include some of the leaves for color)
½ teaspoon salt
Prepare your charcoal or fire. Gently brush the skin of the fish with olive oil. Lightly salt the skin. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the chopped ramps, and1/4 teaspoon salt together. Fill the body cavities with the ramp (or shallot) mixture. Place the pieces on the fire grate or grill. (If using a grill, use a vented cover so that heat is distributed evenly around fish.) When the fish is cooked about halfway through (possibly several minutes, depending on the heat of the fire), flip. (Note: If you are using a cedar plank, you will not need to flip the fish.). Allow the fish to cook all the way through, perhaps several more minutes. (The time will depend on the heat of your fire and thickness of your fish. You may cut into a piece to ensure that it is done.) Serve. The meat should peel away easily from the bones. Be sure to spoon the stuffing onto your fish pieces while eating!
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