Ramps (In Pursuit Of)

Days spent hanging out at the hospital, with the exception of a few hours at home to shower and sleep, are over. I now have the position of full time patient care provider here at home. Maybe I should have gone into the health care profession. I’m pretty good at it if I must say so myself. I can do it all, including changing wound dressings and emptying drainage receptacles. My duties, now that we are at home, include food preparation so perhaps I can soon get back to posting current material. Meanwhile, here is one more report from the past.

Yesterday I mentioned jam and syrup made from wild violet blossoms which appear in the spring. Ramps are another wild food that show up in early spring. They are the first green thing to poke through the leaf litter on the forest floor.

Ramps are in the same family as onions, garlic and leeks but are uniquely different. They grow wild in the mountains of eastern United States and Canada. They are notorious for their strong flavor and odor and are one of those foods that people either love or hate. Ramp lovers gather annually at numerous ramp festivals scattered across several states to celebrate the wild vegetable.

While ramps are a spring phenomenon it is appropriate to mention them ahead of time since ramp season is very short. It is a good idea to plan ahead if one wishes to participate in the experience.

A coworker introduced me to ramps over ten years ago. He goes back to his old stomping grounds to dig them in the woods of West Virginia. He used to dig some for me every year until we no longer worked for the same company.

I’ve been missing them the last few years, This last spring we took a day trip to the mountains of North Carolina hoping to acquire some. A small ramps festival we visited was serving dishes featuring ramps but there were none for sale for us to take home. We didn’t find any at a nearby farmers’ market either, but we were directed to a small roadside produce stand that had a few bundles of ramps for sale. I think I paid $2 a bundle. I’m sure there are big city chefs who would happily pay a lot more.

ramps


First thing I did when we got back home that evening was make myself a ramp sandwich. Breakfast the next morning was fried potatoes with ramps.

cleaned rampsramp sandwichpotatoes and ramps


I indulged in fresh ramps for a couple of days then preserved the rest by dehydration. I dried the green parts separately from the reddish stems and white parts. It just seemed like the right way to do it. Some of what is shown in this photo is from a previous year. I use the different cuts of dehydrated ramps for different purposes. The powdered green leaves (far right) add a subtle flavor of ramps to dishes. The ground bulb and stem (second from the left) add bold ramp flavor. The rough cut (third from left) I use medicinally for tea when battling illness. The white part cut in rings (I reconstitute for a more physical presence of ramps in a dish.

dehydrated ramps


Ramps definitely have limited appeal, and because their availability is regional not everyone will have the opportunity to experience it. As stated at the beginning, it’s one of those things people either love or hate, so, obviously, ramps enthusiasts are few in number. Maybe it is just as well. The world is riddled with secrets for the curious to discover. It is the curious that most deserve to discover them.


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