Tuesday, April 28, 2015

West Virginia Ramps (Wild Onions)

I think most people think of inclines when you say "ramps", but that's not the case if you're from West Virginia.  It's the end of ramp season right now and in this part of the country, when people say "ramps" they are often referring to a wild onion.

These have a very strong and distinct flavor.  Legend has it that when my dad was in high school, there was a test he wasn't prepared for, and he put ramps behind the radiators in some of the classrooms causing school to be let out early because of the smell.  Some of his stories were a bit outlandish, but I tend to believe this one.

Recently we bought a mess of ramps.  (The proper word is not "some" or even "a few bunches", you get a "mess of ramps".)  If you don't want to go ramping yourself, you can buy them from roadside stands or from people who have gone out into the woods.  They don't grow in gardens, they grow wild.  I have heard of people trying to plant them, but haven't heard how the experiment went.

My fiance is from Virginia.  Most people who grew up around ramps don't think of fixing them any other way than eating them raw, using the leaves in a salad, and the onions in fried potatoes with ham.  However, being the city boy my fiance is as well as a bit of  foodie, he fixed them in squash and another night in brussel sprouts.  (I told him he needed to turn in his West Virginia card for adding them to brussel spouts.)  Turns out I liked them better than I have ever had them with squash.  The brussel sprouts were good, but they also have such a strong flavor I didn't care for them being fixed with ramps.  Still it was an experiment and I hope we can pick up another mess of ramps this year.  If not, we will wait until next year and experiment again!

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