Ramps, Morels and More – Tracking the Foraged Foods Found on Fine Dining Menus

With the season changing from winter to spring, several delicious foraged foods have begun to appear in fields, forests, and fine dining restaurants. Ramps, morels, nettles, fiddleheads, and sorrel are the most common foraged plants utilized by chefs, and their usage on menus has skyrocketed during the month of April.

We track the menus at one-hundred fine dining restaurants in NYC on a monthly basis, and the charts below show the number of times each spring-foraged menu item appeared in a dish on those menus.

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Ramps are the most popular foraged food on the menus that we track. The plant, also called wild garlic or wild leek, can be found in parts of the eastern United States in spring. The plant is often served in dishes either grilled or charred, but it is also commonly incorporated into sauces like pesto, remoulade, salsa, chimichurri and romesco. Chimichurri and romesco were both featured recently on The Trending Menu as sauces that are trending in 2017, so it is no surprise that ramps have been incorporated into the two sauces.

Morels are the second most common foraged food appearing on the menus that we track. In the United States, morels are most commonly found in the Midwest and tend to grow on elm, ash, apple and poplar trees. Morels, a type of mushroom, are treasured for their unique nutty flavor and are commonly used alongside a wide array of ingredients including chicken, fish and pasta.

Given the prized qualities of both ramps and morels, some chefs have produced creative dishes showcasing the two ingredients side-by-side. Some examples are below, along with the restaurant that created each dish:

  • Green Circle Chicken with Ramp Pesto, and Morels (Park Avenue Spring)
  • Ricotta Angolotti with Ramps, Morels, and Lemon Oil (Craft)
  • Wood Roasted Pigeon with Ramps, Morels, and Aceto Balsamico (Charlie Bird)
  • Sweetbreads with Morel Mushrooms, Green Asparagus, Ramps, and Sauce Périgord (Fowler & Wells)

Nettles are flowering plants predominantly found in Europe, Asia and the United States. The flavor of nettles has been described as similar to both cucumber and spinach. Nettles, also called stinging nettles, produce a stinging sensation when their needles come into contact with skin, but cooking the plant eliminates this problem.

Fiddleheads are the fronds of a young fern that have not yet unfurled. Fiddleheads can be found in the United States, Europe and Asia, and carry a grassy flavor that has been described as similar to asparagus, artichoke and spinach.

Sorrel is an herb found in grassland habitats across Europe, Asia and North America. The plant, with a sour flavor often compared to green apples or kiwis, is commonly paired with seafood and is frequently featured in soups, broths and marinades.

Other foraged ingredients used on the fine dining menus that we track include nasturtium, miner’s lettuce, and chickweed.

Below are some additional dishes featuring various foraged foods:

  • Morels, Fava, and Asiago (Babbo)
  • Herbal Risotto with Morels, Spring Onions, and Nettles (Perry St)
  • Pan Roasted Faroe Islands Salmon with Fava Beans,‏ Baby Shiitake Mushrooms, Fiddlehead Ferns, Pearl Onions, and Sorrel Salsa Verde (The Odeon)
  • Foie Gras Torchon with Tete de Cochon, Nasturtium, and Radish (The NoMad Restaurant)
  • Char Grilled Squab, Crushed Peas, and Nasturtium Vinaigrette (Jean Georges)
  • Grilled Asparagus & Escarole, Puffed Farro, Green Strawberries, Miner’s Lettuce, and Basil Vin (Hudson Clearwater)
  • Grappa Flambéed Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Chickweed Salad, Pickled Cape Gooseberries, Chilean Muscat, and Mojave Grapes (Daniel)

What are some other foraged foods that you have noticed? Do you think that ramps and morels have reached their peak for the year, or will more restaurants feature the ingredients in May?

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