Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring Tonic

Years ago when people preserved their own food, the early spring months would be the time that the supply of fresh food would be low and everyone would be tired of eating dried beans again. Here in West Virginia, one of the first signs that spring is on its way is the appearance of these little green shoots in the woods.

These are ramps or wild onions. Many people feel strongly that these little foul weeds act as a spring tonic to cure whatever has been ailing you the last few months of winter. My theory is that if you hadn't been eating anything green for months and you finally shocked your body with some, you would have to feel better.

You can find them growing wild in small hollers up in the mountains. This patch is a closely guarded secret near our house. I would tell you where it is, but even I haven't been allowed to visit. Farmer Brown's Uncle took these pictures for me - Thanks, Delmas!

They look like onions, taste better, but smell like old sweaty-socks. Their smell is pungent. Beware that if you eat them, the smell will reek out of your pores for at least a day. You don't even want to know what it does to your breath. I put some in the fridge in an airtight container and the taste seeped into everything, including the milk.

I fully intended to use some ramps in some new, interesting recipes involving a pizza and one involving Gruyere cheese, but I misplaced them. Then the smell of them in the fridge was so revolting, that I just couldn't imagine what cooking them would make my kitchen smell like.

Most people like to fry ramps in bacon grease and eat them with eggs. My grandmother likes them raw. Throughout West Virginia in April and early May you can find Ramp Dinners at schools and Ruritan Clubs. The most well-known dinner is the Feast of the Ramson in Richwood, WV. For over 71 years, people have been flocking to my small high school town to eat these "little stinkers".

You can also now buy ramp products. This place also sells ramp seeds so you can plant your own crop for next spring.

So if you've been feeling poorly this winter, try and scrounge you up some ramps. I don't know if they would cure Swine Flu, but I'm pretty sure it will keep people away from you for several days.


Tiffany said...

I have a recipe that calls for ramps. It's a scrambled egg thing. it might have potatoes in it too, i can't remember. I've never seen ramps though. That was interesing! Thanks for sharing about them.

Julie said...

Hmm...I wouldn't mind keeping certain people away from me :)

Amy said...

Way to support our Richwood heritage! My favorite ramp tale is seeing a sign in the dentist's office saying: "If you've eaten ramps, your appointment will be rescheduled."

Brindi said...

Tiffany - you wil have to share the recipe!

Julie - you wouldn't believe the kids that come to school that have eaten them. The only way not to smell them is to eat them yourself.

Amy - That is too funny! I forget every year how badly they smell. My husband ate them Sat. at a dinner, and he still smelled today. I wanted to get a picture of that little roadside place that sells the Ramp Burger.


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