This time of year, food enthusiasts along the East Coast start anticipating the reappearance of ramps—wild leeks that inspire a cultish devotion, both for their garlicky flavor and because they're one of the earliest green spring vegetables available after a long, rutabaga-filled winter. Pickle fans have another reason to look forward to ramp season, though: It means that Chris Forbes of Sour Puss Pickles will be turning his attention to them.
"It started as a hobby, as most of these upstart companies do," Forbes says. After seven years of giving jars of pickled ramps as gifts to great acclaim from friends and family, he started commercial production a year and a half ago. Now they take over his life a few weeks a year. "We drop everything and just do ramps when they're ready," he explains, since there's a "small window between when the bulbs are too small to use and when they grow too big."
The rest of the time, he and his business partner Evelyn Evers produce a wide range of other pickles from locally sourced produce, including the peppered okra that won them a Good Food Award. "It was very exciting to be a part of it," Forbes says, especially since Sour Puss was "one of the youngest companies there. This year they're branching out into sauerkraut and will be offering four different varieties each week at the New Amsterdam Market: classic, curry, horseradish, and seaweed.
If you have a bumper crop of ramps, you can always pickle them yourselves, but if you'd prefer instant gratification, Court Street Grocers in Carroll Gardens carries most of the Sour Puss line, including the ramps. Forbes likes to use them for relishes or a salsa verde-style sauce to put on meat, though they're also a fine addition to a cheeseburger or chopped into egg or potato salad.
To see a full list of products, visit SourPussPickles.com.