“Ramp” up your spring with these wild delicacies!April 25, 2018
It’s that time of year! Spring has sprung, and with it comes a certain smell that wafts from the woods – the smell of ramps.
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? 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. Places like Secret Sandwich Society and The Station in Fayetteville take full advantage of the spring harvest. Expect unique creations while ramp supplies last. Local farmers will also have their own to sell; keep an eye on places like Deep Mountain Farm, West Virginia Homegrown Farms and The Farm Stand at New River Gorge to purchase your own.
And the fun doesn’t stop there – head to the Camp Creek State Park Timbersports Competition and Ramp Feast on April 28 to get a taste of ramps in a traditional Appalachian ramp casserole. The meal also comes with brown beans, cornbread, slaw and a drink for $12.
Have you tried ramps? What’s your favorite ramp recipe?