It’s Ramp Season!April 28, 2021
What Are Ramps?
Ramps are wild leeks that are known to grow on the East Coast from South Carolina to Canada, but are extremely thick in Southern West Virginia. Every spring, the green leaves pop up from the freshly softened soil, delighting those waiting for their return. Ramps have a very limited season (typically April to May), causing a frenzy from locals to chefs across the country.
You’ll know you’ve found allium tricoccum (the scientific name) by these characteristics:
- The leaves: Look for smooth, broad, green leaves that lead to a reddish-pink stem.
- A distinct aroma: Ramps have a smell and taste similar to a cross between garlic and shallots. If you can’t smell it, that probably means it isn’t a ramp!
Where Can I Find Ramps?
Want to harvest your own? Many West Virginians head to our state’s public lands to find ramps of their own. Ramps prefer shade and will grow in large patches along the forest floor. If you’re hunting in the woods, look under trees like oak, sugar maples, buckeyes or birch.
It’s also important to note that while ramps are a wild plant, they can be over-harvested. If you find a patch, practice sustainable harvesting by snipping off the roots of the original plant. Then, replant the roots where you found them. And remember – only take what you need.
But lucky for you, you don’t have to dig around the forest to find these Appalachian delicacies (unless you want to!). Ramps are native to Southern West Virginia, and are featured every spring in dishes across our area. Local restaurants get creative each year with how they incorporate ramps into their seasonal dishes. You can enjoy everything from a ramp burger and ramp pizza to ramp pimento cheese and other ramp garnishes. You can find some of these ramp specialties (and more!) at the following restaurants:
- The Dish Cafe
- Wood Iron Eatery
- Cathedral Cafe
- Cafe One Ten
- Firecreek BBQ & Steaks
You can also try out other ramp delicacies at any of the local ramp-inspired festivals! Check out local ramp dishes at The 2nd Annual Ramp It Up Festival at ACE Adventure Resort on May 1 or The 82nd Feast of the Ramson Festival on May 15 in Richwood!
Want to try an easy ramp recipe at home? Check out our Ramp Butter recipe below.
One of the best ways to preserve ramps and add their unique oniony/garlicky flavor to foods is to make ramp butter. Once you’ve made the butter, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or freeze for up to 4 months. The butter can be used as a spread on crackers or breads, or added to recipes and used for sauces or cooking.
2 Sticks of butter, softened
A handful of ramps, cleaned and sliced
Salt and pepper
Before you use the ramps, you will need to trim and clean them. Soak the ramps in cold water and use your fingers to gently pull the leaves back to rinse out any dirt. Allow the ramps to drain and dry before using. Once the ramps are dry, finely slice or mince them.
Place the butter in a mixing bowl, and beat until creamy, then add the ramps and a pinch or two of salt and pepper. Mix for 1 minute and scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until all the butter and ramps are combined. You can store the butter in a container, or scoop it out onto a piece of parchment paper and roll it into a log.