That’s right, it’s time for stinky breath, smelly sweat, and odiferous flatulence to once again permeate the air around everyone who eats these little gems from nature. A native plant in West Virginia and the Appalachian mountains, (you can find them from South Carolina to Quebec) the pungent yet sweet and oh so mouth watering smell of these guys has probably never graced the nostrils of most people in the nation. And you either like these things, or you can’t stand them. There is very little middle ground when it comes to the taste.
I went out over the weekend to one of my favorite spots back in the woods and proceeded to fill my bag with the little green and white leeks. One bagful will usually do the wife and I for a while. Vacuum packed and placed in the freezer, they will last for several months. The digital camera photographs below are of what I brought home. This is only a drop in the bucket compared to what is growing in my “patch”. There are bushels of these things growing there.
In central Appalachia, ramps are most commonly fried with potatoes in bacon grease or scrambled with eggs and served with bacon, pinto beans, and cornbread. Ramps, however, are quite adaptable to almost any food style and can also be used in soups, puddings, ketchup, guacamole and other foods, in place of onions and garlic. Some people like them raw, but others say the aroma of raw wild leeks stays with one for days.
The community of Richwood, West Virginia holds the annual “Feast of the Ramson” (sometimes called “The Ramp Feed”) in April. Sponsored by the National Ramp Association, the ‘ramp feed’ (as it is locally known) brings thousands of ramp aficianados from considerable distances to sample foods featuring the plant. During the ramp season (late winter through early spring), restaurants in the town serve a wide variety of foods containing wild leeks. They will occasionally make you pass gas a lot!
The community of Whitetop, Virginia holds its annual ramp festival the third weekend in May. It is sponsored by the Mount Rogers volunteer fire department and features local old time music from Wayne Henderson and other bands and a barbecued chicken feast complete with fried potatoes and ramps and local green beans. A ramp-eating contest is held for children through adults.
In Canada, wild leeks are considered rare delicacies. Since the growth of leeks is not as widespread as in West Virginia and because of destructive human practices, wild leeks are an endangered species in Quebec.