Springtime in the West Virginia mountains is something to behold. As we say in these parts, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes!” It is common to see all four seasons in the span of one day or even across a few hours. We learn to layer up in these parts, and to be ready for anything. After all, self-sufficiency is the Appalachian way.
No amount of weather roulette will calm a West Virginian’s enthusiasm for the spring and we know the season brings many boons to offset the trailings of winter – longer days, more sun, the landscape bursting from greys to brilliant greens – and most of all – ramps!
“Now, what in the name of all things wild and free are ramps!?”
Well, my friends, let me tell you. Ramps are a treasure to us here in the mountains. They are a type of wild onion with a bulb very reminiscent of a single small garlic bulb. These bulbs, though, have a root cluster on the bottom side and are attached by this beautiful reddish stem to a large broad leaf on the top.
In the old days, these pungent little babies might be the first fresh vegetable folks had seen in quite a long time. So, you can imagine how welcome a sight they would be and why they would often lead to community-wide events or “ramp feeds.”
Now, while the entire plant is edible, it’s important to treat different parts of the plant differently. Once you take the roots off with a sharp blade, ramps can be eaten fresh from the ground, but they can do so much more than that. I would have to say that ramp-fried potatoes are the most traditional dish, eaten with cornbread and soup beans, at least in my family. Or, you could straight up put the ramps in your cornbread.