Ramps, Spring Onion, Scallion
- schoenfelderp Apr 19, 2012 05:17 PM
There seem to be many different names but I can't seem to figure out the difference. Are they in fact different? If so, what are the differences?
The term “scallion” is applied to Allium cepa or Allium fistulosum or Allium ×proliferum or Allium ×wakegi (the × means it’s not a true species but a hybrid).
The term “ramp” is applied to Allium tricoccum.
The term “spring onion” is applied to both scallions and ramps.
The bottom line is that here (as with many food ingredients) the same common term is applied to several different species and hybrids... so we shouldn't assume they are all the same merely because they have been given the same name.
Ramps have a very distinct taste Sharp and Garlicky not at all like Scallions or Spring onion.
According to McGee (p. 312), "ramsons" and "ramps" are Allium tricoccum, and "wild leeks" are Allium ampeloprasum. But it's clear that the mapping between common names and species is not rigorous, and that various local conventions differ. McGee lives in California, so his book inevitably presents a North American perspective.
In my long relationship with these delightful vegetables, "scallions" & "spring onions" are one & the same - "spring onion" being the name used in Asian cultures. It's just semantics - plant is exactly the same.
"Ramps", while still an allium, are a totally different veggie altogether - tiny bulbs, thin reddish stem, wide paper-thin leaves. Not even close to the above.
Then there's the new "young sweet onions" that have been hitting the markets the last few years. These have scallion-type leaves, but have bulbs that are about golf-ball size & are essentially young sweet onions (like "Vidalia", "Texas Sweet", etc., etc.). Great for grilling & serving atop a nice steak.
To me, scallions and green onions are names for the same thing, but spring onions are something else. Scallions have a nearly uniform width from top to bottom. Spring onions are more like what you call "young sweet onions." They have rounded bulbs that are significantly wider than the stalk and are mainly available in the spring. However, I think that the terminology varies, depending on where one lives.
Ramps are a different animal (well, a different vegetable). How I wish that they were easier to find!
I'd like to make this sound funny, but it's coming out like a lecture, sorry. There are spring onions in my garden, and they aren't much like scallions or ramps. Scallions are immature onions, with small bulbs, typically not much larger than the stalk. Like mature onions, stalks consist of upright growths from the top of each ring, starting at the top of the bulb. Ramps are a wild leek, that don't much resemble onions. The bulb is relatively small, and the leaf is an actual leaf on a stalk. My spring onions form elongated distinct bulbs, and the stalk is also elongated, with individual stems that separate from the stalk at distinct distances from the bulb. They are also a bunching onion, and come up repeatedly once planted.
Allium tricoccum is the US version of ramps. Scallions are immature Allium cepa. The Latin name for spring onion is usually given as A. cepa, but sometimes A. fistulosum, which is a bunching onion, like the spring onions in my garden.
In the few dishes I've made with spring onions, the onion flavor is milder and sweeter than either mature A cepa or scallions. I recommend spring onions for anyone who appreciates a perennial, reliable, and delicious version of onion. Contact me for seed or start availabiliy.