I recently went “Ramp” or “Wild Leek” (depending upon where you live) digging with my parents and good friend Deborah in West Virginia. It’s been a long honored tradition every few years of ours to go, since I was a small boy. Each time we trek 2 to 3 miles into the wilderness looking for the places we know they grow naturally and each time we dig them off the sides of the mountains. Ramps like to grow in rocky, wet, and sometimes obscure places with a preferred 45% or more downhill graded terrain, then we carry them out on our backs in bags.
I remember when I was a boy and upon returning with what my dad affectionately calls a “mess of ramps” we would have a ramp fry mixed with fresh potatoes, kidney beans (or the like), and ham, almost approaching something that sounds like it would be a story out of a Dr. Seuss book. We cleaned and ate them with delight …well ate them with delight, cleaning ramps can be a serious time consuming pain in the rear.
During the spring there are hundreds of Ramp festivals in which families and foodies alike from all over the various states and even Canada come together to enjoy ramp dinners and country food festivals, with one of the largest of these being the “Feast of the Ramson”, held in Richwood WV. Ramps have continued to grow with increasing popularity over the years and will surely continue to do so. Ramps now have even been shown in dishes on the food network and by Martha Stewart.
Anyways, whether you’re a foodie just now discovering ramps or someone that grew up with them like me, it’s always a fun adventure and although a lot of work from start to finish for what some might say is not worth it, depending on your pallet and personal tastes. It is a great time to me and the feeling of eating that first dinner after laboring and digging them out of the earth with your own two hands, means something more than most people will ever get to experience…. It just makes it all worth it. Plus, I also personally think they are quite delicious, comparable to garlic and who doesn’t love garlic?
For a little more information about Ramps / Wild Leeks visit the wiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium_tricoccum
For a few recipes of what you can do with Ramps click on the links below:
Ramps with Linguine
White Cheese Pizza with Ramps
Fried Potatoes and Ramps