I first discovered ramps when I was on a camping trip in college. I broke down in Cleveland WV (population 200) and had the good fortune of using the phone at a quaint country cottage. The elderly owners helped me get to the campground, brought me firewood, and invited us to their community's ramp feed. Their generosity was unmatched so I could not turn down the invitation and I attended the Hacker Valley Ramp Feed, which was a fundraiser for the school system.
That was my first introduction to Appalachian ramp festivals, and ever since I've wanted to attend the big one - the Richwood Feast of the Ramson. However, each year the date seemed to come in conflict with a Fresh Fork activity, and until now I haven't been able to attend.
So this past weekend Allyson and I and another couple traveled to Richwood WV. We found a fantastic log cabin to stay in on AirBnB (Scotty and Betty if you are searching). The hosts were very hospitable and the setting charming.
On Saturday we went trout fishing in the morning and then made our way into town to ascend on the Ramp Feed. The cafeteria of the high school was packed, and although we had pre-purchased our tickets, we still waited a while to get to the front of the line. The wait was worth it though. We were treated to a hearty serving of stewed ramps, cornbread, beans and ham, bacon, ham, fried potatoes, cake and sassafras tea. Yes, we rolled out of there, stinking of the "Lily of the Kitchen."
While we were eating, the volunteers came around with extra servings of stewed ramps. She explained that they have been preparing for this feast for two weeks. In that time, members of the community have harvested and cleaned 2,000 lbs of ramps. They then chop them up and freeze them (no blanching necessary). The day of the ramp feed, they start early and slowly cook them down in a large pot with oil and salt. The ramps get soft and bursting with flavor.
I then asked our helper though if that was her favorite way to prepare them, or if she used bacon and bacon grease at home. "Honey, I used to make them for my late husband with bacon. He liked them that way." So I asked, 'But how do you like them.' "Me? Honey, those stinky things will never touch these sweet lips." We burst out in laughter as she walked off.
The Ramp Feed was a success and we then attended the craft fair next door, where we found hand made wood products, custom made knives, country crafts, and hand-tied trout flies.
We then went into a food coma and rested, getting ready for an early day of fishing the next day. Our host Scotty took us out into the Monongahela National Forest along the Cranberry River. The only way to access the river was via foot, horse, or bicycle. We rode up the river about 8 miles and fished our way back down. The fish were biting for Scotty, and for the rest of us....we got a lot of snags. We now know that next time fishing the Cranberry means that we need to bring a pallet of sinkers and hooks and a little more patience!
This Week's Bag
Just to give you a little more info on the actual veggie, Ramps (sometimes called Spring Onions or Wild Garlic) are a delicious Spring allium with an extremely short season. As you might have gathered from the Ramp Feed story about, they're similar to a scallion, and are found mostly in the eastern part of the US and into Canada. Read below for recipe ideas, but almost any recipe that features asparagus would work for these garlicky greens and bulbs.
For the Pizza Dough Balls-- check out our post online
on how to bake fantastic pizza at home! It's made at Frickaccio's at the Westside Market using our flour, and it makes a delicious pie.
A note on how to cook the bacon sausage patties: the best way is in the oven, on a sheet tray to catch the drippings, in a 350 oven. Cook for appx 20 minutes and finish on hot griddle to sear the outside.