Spring is near.
In Southern West Virginia spring brings a number of things: Warmer temperatures, the last few turns on skis, the start of whitewater season, blooming flowers and much more. It also signals the time for ramps.
You may be familiar with the enigmatic ramp. For those of you that aren’t, a ramp is a wild leek, and a local harbinger of spring.
Simple enough right? Well, there is a bit more to their story. They have a very pronounced onion flavor and a strong garlic scent. I’ll admit, scent may be putting it mildly. Needless to say, ramps are loved, hated yet never ignored.
In the coming weeks ramp dinners and festivals will take place all across West Virginia, none more famous than Richwood’s Feast of the Ramson. If you were asked to draw the epicenter of rampdom on a map, Richwood would be the X that marks the spot.
I recently passed through Richwood and was happy to see Four Seasons Outfitters had fresh ramps! Needless to say, I quickly bought bag-full for dinner.
Next stop? The local grocery store for fixins. Brown soup beans (pintos), homemade cornbread, fried potatoes with ramps, and some thick sliced bacon.
Take a bag (16 oz) of Pinto Beans, add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Let beans boil for two minutes then remove from heat and let them sit covered for one hour. Then drain, add 6 cups of hot water and simmer for approx 2 ½ hours (add more water as needed). For flavor you will need simmer beans with either a ham bone, fat back or thick sliced country bacon (I used bacon), salt and pepper to taste.
Last year I had the opportunity to eat at The Greenbrier’s Restaurant ‘44’ where they serve Cathy Justice’s Blue Ribbon Cornbread. If you have a cast iron skillet use it. Add just a little oil to the bottom of skillet and let it warm up in the oven prior to putting in mixture – makes the cornbread come out golden brown.
If you’re looking for a perfect cornbread for your ramp dinner? This is the one.
Cathy Justice’s “Best of Show” Blue Ribbon Cornbread
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/16 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
Preheat oven to 425°.
Oil an 8×8 pan.
Mix all dry ingredients. Add liquids. Stir just to mix.
Bake 30 minutes until golden brown.
Footnote from Cathy Justice:
“Please use your judgment about sugar & oil. It’s better sweet than not!
Fried Potatoes, Ramps & Bacon:
Dice your potatoes (I leave the skin on), put them in a skillet with a little oil, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender.
Chop and sauté ramps in skillet then add to potatoes when they are just about done (if you fry ramps with potatoes entire time they tend to over cook).
Fry thick sliced country bacon in the same pan you sautéed ramps for extra flavor.
Hungry now? What would you add? Let us know how yours turns out .