Ramps season still growing strong in the mountains
Last updated: August 30, 2021
While many annual ramp dinners are canceled across the Mountain State, ramp season is still growing strong in the hillsides of West Virginia. Known for their distinct smell, ramps are a culinary tradition for many who enjoy Appalachian foods.
The ramp is a member of the lily family, and is best eaten during late March and April, when they are still sweet. The first ramps of the season generally show up in mid-March.
However, ramp season is officially over in May, when they are generally tough and strong, with an almost garlic odor. Typically, they are found on the northside of a hill, in a semi-shaded area. To properly dig up a ramp, it is best to use hand trowel.
Ramp locations are also a secret for many West Virginians. Only close friends and family will share a ramp location. If you know the best place for ramps, keep it a secret, right?
Ramps have leaves and bulbs like a tulip. The plant also resembles an onion. And for early settlers, it was one of the first green vegetables of the year.
Early ramps can be tossed in a salad with oil and vinegar. Some prefer ramps baked into an easy casserole, served with brown beans, cornbread and coleslaw. Appalachian recipes don’t have exact measurements. It’s a lot of dashs, handfuls, bunches and eyeballing ingredients.
Here is a version of an Appalchian ramp casserole, without exact measures, of course. Recipe courtesy of Josh Parks, Mercer County.
- Chop up some ramps.
- Fry about two pounds of sausage with ramps.
- Cube and boil up a bag of taters.
- Then scramble a bunch of eggs with more ramps.
- Mix all together with six cups of sharp chedder cheese.
- Put in a pan, cover with even more cheese.
- Bake until cheese melts.
Disclaimer: Practice social distancing and do not participate in large ramp hunts. Also, ramps are slightly stinky but are well-loved by many.