Author: RampHead (page 2 of 9)

Ramp Feasting In West Virginia

I found this article from a 1985 edition of The New York Times. What a great read!

Come April in West Virginia everyone looks to the hills. For some, red-bud, dogwood and the first tinge of tender green are the attraction. For others the pleasure is gustatory. They know that spring in the Appalachians is ramp season.

The ramp, otherwise known as wild leek or Allium tricoccum, is a member of the lily family. With broad, pointed leaves it looks much like a lily of the valley, though it has a stem and bulb more like a scallion, another member of the lily family. Like a scallion, one of its characteristics is a strong odor. In fact, odor is probably the most noticeable thing about the ramp. In pungency and power of penetration it surpasses even those other members of the lily family, onions, leeks and garlic.

Once the roots have been cut off, no amount of plastic wrapping, not even a styrofoam cooler, can contain the smell. In Richwood, W. Va., the self- proclaimed Ramp Capital of the World, Jim Comstock, publisher of the local newspaper, The West Virginia Hillbilly, once mixed ramp juice with the ink for his press to publicize the town’s ramp feast. Local lore has it that postal workers fell ill from the smell of the papers they had to handle.

As for the taste, raw ramps are not recommended, except to the stout hearted or to someone who may suffer from sinus congestion. Cooked ramps, on the other hand, can be delicious, rather like spinach or kale prepared with garlic. But there is no denying that even cooked ramps are potent. If you have difficulty with greens, garlic or onions, you had best proceed with caution when it comes to ramps.

Otherwise, the traditional dinner is not an occasion for restraint. According to Hyer Sutton, the mayor of Richwood, some former West Virginians ”get so wrapped up in ramps” that they plan their vacations around the event, coming to Richwood from as far away as Hawaii, New Jersey and Texas. Some ramp fans drive up from Florida for the weekend and down from Ohio for the day for all-you-can- eat dinners that are served from 11 A.M. to about 5 P.M. The meals usually include such traditional West Virginia fare as ham, sausage, cornbread, beans, potatoes, cake and coffee or sassafras tea. Dinner tickets cost about $5, which is one reason for the popularity of the event.

Another reason is purely social. It’s not often that residents have occasion to celebrate in this area of West Virginia, for times are generally tough economically, but that does not dampen the spirits of ramp eaters. At some feasts – in Eleanor and Clay, for instance – food remains the focus of the event. At others, festivities have been extended. Richwood begins its annual feast day at 10 A.M. with a 10-kilometer race. Running those 6.25 miles is one way to work up an appetite. For the rest of the day, while dinners are being served, handcrafts are sold at a bazaar and country musicians provide street entertainment.

Other states also hold ramp festivals. Some are on a larger scale, such as the one in Cosby, Tenn., which attracts up to 60,000 participants, and some are much smaller, such as the one in Alfred, N. Y., which involves only the 300 or so members of the community. But nowhere else is the ramp tradition more firmly rooted than in Richwood, the headquarters of the National Ramp Association. Ramp feasting as an event began about 1921 when some Richwood men met for a cookout during ramp season. Eventually their gathering moved indoors and came under the jurisdiction of the Chamber of Commerce. The success of the Richwood event inspired other communities to start their own dinners, usually as a way of raising money for a local organization.

The custom of eating ramps may have begun with early English immigrants. They were were probably familiar with similar wild plants in Britain, such as the rampion (a bellflower with an edible root) or the ramson (a variety of garlic). Whether the settlers discovered them on their own or were introduced to them by the Indians, as some say, ramps must have provided a welcome change from their winter diet of salted meat and dried corn and beans. Ramps, which contain vitamins C and A, were also valued for their tonic effect.

Though they once flourished throughout the Eastern mountain regions and in parts of the Midwest, ramps have slowly retreated over the years to the more remote, higher elevations in the Appalachian Mountains. Even within West Virginia, ramps grow in abundance only in the cooler climate and richer soil of the area around Richwood, especially in Monongahela National Forest. There before the trees have leafed out, they form a carpet of green.

Late March or early April is usually the beginning of the season, when the plants have reached a height of about 8 to 10 inches. By May the leaves are too tough and the flavor too strong for even the most die-hard ramp eater. Digging ramps involves some skill and requires fortitude, because spring in the mountains can be cold and damp. The ramps must be carefully pried out with the roots intact. Keeping next year’s crop in mind, the experienced digger tries to thin a good patch rather than eradicate it, so the plants will grow back bigger and better the following spring.

Not all visitors will have the opportunity or the desire to dig their own ramps, but those who attend a ramp dinner will usually be able to buy some at the door, for anywhere from $1.50 to $3 a pound. The plants will keep for three to four days in a cooler or a refrigerator. They should be washed thoroughly and the roots sliced off before using. Then they can be cooked whole or chopped, green parts and all.

West Virginians generally prefer to prepare their ramps by parboiling them whole, draining them, frying them in bacon grease and adding a scrambled egg, crumbled cooked bacon and a sprinkling of vinegar. Some Richwooders have developed more elaborate recipes for such things as macaroni and cheese with ramps, ramp pie and ramp salad. Basically, ramps can be substituted with discretion in almost any recipe calling for leeks or scallions. They can also be cooked, then canned in vinegar or frozen.

After indulging in ramps, one question often arises: Is there any way to combat ramp breath? Suggestions for antidotes include eating a banana or sucking a clove or a lemon, but nothing is entirely effective. If you have an important date in the evening, the only foolproof tactic is abstention.

The First Ramp Orders Of 2018

Can winter be over already? I’m tired of storm after storm leaving so much snow in its wake. It’s almost April, and it’s already spring. It’s time for a little bit of warmth and sunshine. Who’s with me?

We are currently taking order for the first ramp shipment of 2018. The first orders will ship out on 4-2-2018. Order now if you want to be included in that group. Please note that these are SMALL ramps. There will be very little green and some ramps may have no green at all. If you want bigger ramps, you will have to wait a couple more weeks.

You can find the ramp order page here:
ORDER PAGE

Ramp Bulbs Are Back In Stock

Just a quick note to those of you that have been waiting on ramp bulbs to be available again. They’re now back in stock! (1-10-2018)

https://wildwestvirginiaramps.com/product-category/ramp-bulbs/

 

 

Black Friday Ramp Bulb Sale

Wild West Virginia Ramps is having a Black Friday sale from 9am (11/24/17) through midnight on 11/25/17. All ramp bulbs are discounted 25% and the prices listed on the site include shipping.

https://wildwestvirginiaramps.com/product-category/ramp-bulbs/

Happy Thanksgiving!

Caramelized Wild Ramps

Ingredients:

1-1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1-1/2 Tbsp Turbinado sugar (brown sugar may be substituted)
1 lb wild leek bulbs, fresh or frozen
1-1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400.

Melt the butter in an ovenproof saute pan over medium heat. The saute pan should be large enough to hold all the leek bulbs in a single layer. Add the leek bulbs and cook until they begin to brown slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar and toss, continuing to cook until the sugar melts and begins to bubble, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar and cook for 5 minutes longer.

Place the pan in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 15 minutes. Remove to a serving dish and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve while still warm.

Ramp Bulb Sale With A 20% Off Coupon

Hi Everyone!

I just want to pass along a quick note about our current sale. As a thank you for the business over the course of this year, we are offering 20% off ramp bulbs when you use this coupon code – thanks2017.

Add the ramp bulbs to your shopping cart like you normally would, and enter the coupon code during checkout.

https://wildwestvirginiaramps.com/product-category/ramp-bulbs/

Ramp Jam Recipe

This is a just a variation of a recipe for green onion jam I adapted and tweaked from a chef who I admire very much. Not exactly a “jam” like you would expect, it’s savory and has a bit of a slight crunch to it as well. You could definitely still put it on toast (I do) but usually it’s function is more of a condiment, to be used as part of the accoutrement for platter of cured meats or cheese. It is so much more than just a condiment though.

Since the recipe contains a bit of cornstarch to thicken it and give it it’s “jammy” quality, it will in turn thicken other things that you add it to. Gravy, fruit sauce, heck barbecue sauce. The ramp jam’s possibilities in the kitchen are only limited by your imagination. I’ve used it to make vinaigrettes, flavor sour cream, or I’ll just dollop it on something, anything. This week I used it to make a sauce for beef roast. I took some jam, thinned it with just a bit of reduced, strong pork glace then mounted it with a little butter, and whisked it in to thicken it lightly: it was the best thing I made all week.

RAMP JAM

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cups young or middle aged ramp bulbs sliced 1/4 inch
  • 1.5 tsbp cornstarch, dissolved in 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar or honey
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp each brown mustard seed and yellow mustard seed
  • 1/2 tsp each whole caraway and cumin seed, toasted
  • 2 tbsp flavorless oil like grapeseed or canola
  • Tbsp chopped wild mint (optional)
  • Tiny pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat, add half of the ramps to the pan and cook for a minute or two until translucent. Add the salt, spices and sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add the vinegar and cook for a minute more. Add the cornstarch dissolved in water and cook until the mixture thickens, just a few minutes. Add the reserved ramps and the chopped wild mint if using.
  3. Transfer the ramp jam to a container and cool immediately. It will keep for a long time if it is tightly covered. The ramp jam could also be frozen easily.

Pickled Ramp Bulbs

Yeah, yeah. I know ramp season is over but I made these a while ago and they were so good I decided to blog them anyway. When it comes to ramps, it’s really the green leaves that are incredibly perishable so every once in a while, you can find just the bulbs for sale long after you stop finding the leaves. But what to do with them?

Pickle Them!

You can use these pickled ramps anywhere you would use pickled onions (on sandwiches, tacos, bean dishes, etc).

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 cup white wine vinegar
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns
    • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
    • ⅛ teaspoon hot chili flakes
    • 2 bay leafs
    • 1 pound ramp bulbs, cleaned and trimmed
    • Kosher salt for blanching

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Trim the root ends off of the ramps and cut off the leaves, saving the green ends for another purpose (like pesto or risotto). Rinse the ramps well under cool, running water.
  • Bring a 2-3 quart pot of water up to boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
  • Drop in the ramps and cook for 2-4 minutes, depending on size) They should be tender but not mushy. Remove and shock them in ice water until cool. Drain the ramps well and place them in a the jar you’re going to pickle them in.
  • In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, and water and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaf and all the spices. Turn off the heat.
  • Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the ramps in the mason jar and let cool on the counter (30 minutes or so). Then seal tightly and transfer to the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to eat in a day or two.
  • The refrigerated pickled ramps will last a few weeks to a couple of months.
Pickled Ramp Bulbs

If life gives you ramps, make pickled ramps. These garlicky bulbs preserved in a spice vinegar become a tangy crunchy substitute for pickled onions.

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