Ramps(wild Leeks) a West Virginia Tradtional Wild Food

Ramp digging  is a foragers delight and every spring we take off to the mountain to see if  we can find some of these smelly delicacies. The whole family usually goes and we share our bounty with friends and family. We spend about half the day collecting the onions and spent the other half trout fishing another wonderful natural food that we love.

Spring ramp digging Chritopher holding a the frist ramp

Spring ramp digging Christopher holding  his frist ramp

I know some of you are wondering what a Ramp is and what we use it for so I will explain that and share a few ideas on how to use them also.  Ramps are a wild leak or onion with a flavor like garlic when cooked and hot like a green onion if eaten raw. They are found all over the eastern united states but few states love and dig them like West Virginians. They grow in the higher elevations of our woods and are a bulb  that tends to grow in clumps of 5 or six. The leaves are broad and have a distinctive red seam down the center to the root bulb. The bulbs are traditionaly dug in early spring and  before the bulbs flower and the leaves grow to large and tough to eat.

Wild ramps under a tree

Wild ramps under a tree

This is what ramps look like after digging and cleaning

Ramps ready to clean look like green onions

Ramps ready to clean look like green onions

washed, roots removed and ready to eat

washed, roots removed and ready to eat

The Ramp does have one draw back its smell. It is extremely strong, turning  many people away from eating it… think fresh-cut garlic but 10x stronger… So when handling, eating or cooking the ramps that we collect we all “STINK”. It is actually joked about and people who do not like the smell have been known to leave a kitchen or home because of the pungent odor.  But, the rest of us who love them know and love that smell, it means that a dinner of fried, steamed, or raw ramps is on the way to the table. In our house, we use some of our collected Ramps for Easter dinner, it is my way of giving thanks for spring and a way to share them with a crowed of friends and family.

Basic preparation of ramps is simple, wash, remove roots and tough outer skin, (it appears brown), chop and cook. Our family likes to eat the leaves as well as the bulbs but this is a personal choice and does not add to the over all flavor of a dish. If the person is not used to eating greens it is not nessicery to force the issue. In certain recipes like soup I do skip using the greens because it does turn soup a bright green color.

Our families traditional preparation is to take whole ramps about  1/2 of a pound or all that will fit in a skillet and about 1 Tablespoon bacon grease and saute them together. Ramp bulbs are hard so I add about 1/4 cup of water to steam the bulbs and keep the greens from burning or getting to brown,watch and stir, adding more water as needed to soften the bulbs until translucent… and serve.

Ramps with bacon grease and water steaming away

Ramps with bacon grease and water steaming away

Most of the families we know serve their ramps with potatoes of some kind.We usually serve them with baked ham and hash browns, brown beans and corn bread.This is our southern style Easter dinner.I personally also like just brown beans, ramps and corn bread and a little ketchup to top it off for an easy dinner.

Their are hundreds of other ways to use the “Ramp” and her are just a few ideas that we use all the time to enjoy these wonderful little treats.

I  make a Stromboli with ramps that my husband and I just love for an afternoon lunch.

base for stromboli

base for Stromboli

Using store-bought pizza dough, I fill the bottom of buttered sheet pan and cover it with  ham from the deli, ( I like smoked ham for this), then  shredded Swiss cheese (about 2 cups) then 6 to 8 diced rump bulbs, then a layer of corned beef for the deli, about 1/4 of a pound. Then roll up the dough jelly roll style and bake in the oven at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes until out side of dough is golden brown and cheese looks melted.  We serve ours with a Mariana sauce on the side for dipping.

We also make a potato and ramp casserole that is very good in the fall and uses frozen ramps. They freeze well and store for about a year without any loss of flavor or crispness. Do not precook or blanch the bulbs. They need to retain their texture or they will be mushy when thawed. In most cases ramps can substitute for onions in any recipe the only thing that our family has had any trouble with is meat balls.Ones that are fried, not baked. It appears that the ramp is not able to withstand the temperature needed to cook meatball this way without scorching. It can make a meatball taste terrible to have a scorched ramp all through the meat. Yuck.

Ramp Casserole

4 or 5 diced potatoes

10 to 12 diced ramp bulbs

1/2 lbs pork sausage

3 beaten eggs

1 cup shredded cheese… cheddar works well

8 slices of bacon fried and crumbled

1/2 cup diced ham

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup milk

Peal  and boil diced potatoes until barely tender to a fork,  drain.

Steam chopped ramps in large microwaves safe bowl cover with plastic and steam for 2 min. and then add potatoes to bowl.

Fry sausage drain add to bowl, fry bacon drain crumble and add to bowl.

Then add ham, all eggs beaten, salt, pepper and milk  mix well,

Pour into 9 x 13 baking dish and top with cheese, bake uncovered for 30 minutes  at 350 deg.

Next spring If you are lucky you may find me and my family with ramp hoe in hand standing on a hillside in the spring sun laughing and talking about fish and the smell of ramps. It is a gift that I am able to do so much foraging here in these mountains. Spring is only the beginning and I will looking forward to summer berries and fall fruit.I am blessed with everything  that the earth gives to us freely to enjoy.

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Categories: country cooking, family fun, Foraging, Hacker Valley, organic foods, ramps, State Park activities, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on “Ramps(wild Leeks) a West Virginia Tradtional Wild Food

  1. Wow Jolynn, you sure do have me hungry over here. I also love foraging. Some of the wild foods I like going out to look for in the mountains, forests and parks in the are are wild radishes, mushrooms, purslanes, and mugwort. Foraging really is such fun and I’m glad you posted about it!:) Those ramps look delicious! I’ve heard of them but never had them myself. I’m going to see if we have them out here. Thanks for sharing on this topic and for the two recipes.:) Blessings to you!

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    • Mike murphy

      Have you ever considered foraging ramps to sell? Chicago is named after them and they are extremely sought after in the city. I would love to purchase large amounts of them if you can collect and ship them. Contact me. Chefs Local Choice in Chicago. Mike Murphy
      Chefslocalchoice@gmail.com

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      • Mike thank you for stopping in at Mountainmama…. as for large amounts of ramps… No, I have no desire or ability to gather or ship them… You must understand that ramps grow on mountain tops in most cases not excess able with our a 4 wheel drive and some times a 4 wheeler or side by side. They are not a farm product although they maybe some farmers who get into them in the future. It takes hours of time and love to even harvest a few pounds and most of those stay locally. Sorry but you may want to do some research to find a farm that can provide you with the amount you want.

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  2. Pingback: Ramps(wild Leeks) a West Virginia Tradtional Wild Food | forestmtnhike

  3. Pingback: Foraging | forestmtnhike

  4. I have never had ramps, but after looking at the rest of the ingredients, this dish must taste super yummy. It has all the meats I love: ham, bacon and sausages, wow! I must look for some ramps, at the local market here and try the recipe. You are sure leading a very interesting and pollution free life. Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for stopping by.
    P/sThanks for following and displaying my blog name here! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

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    • Liz Ramps can some times be found at Farmers markets.. but the season is short from Feb to may. At that point they flower and the leaves wilt and die away….. hiding from us until next year… I hope you find some to try… Thank you for the fallow I cant wait to share my Wild turkey blog as soon as I get time to write it too!

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  5. very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep on it

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  6. Excellent post! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our website.
    Keep up the good writing.

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  7. Cindy

    Has anyone bought them online before? I found some for sale here: http://wildwestvirginiaramps.com/wild-west-virginia-ramps-for-sale/ but I was wondering if anyone else had good experience with that?

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    • Cindy, I personally have never tried to order ramps through the mail, although I have sent some and that was a learning experience. because where I live we either buy them at the local farmers market for about 5 dollars less on the pound then what you see listed on that web page or we raise them in our gardens or we dig them fresh… no help here.

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  8. Pingback: Weekend Forage Feast, Chives and Watercress | Mountain Mama

  9. Pingback: Cream of Potato, Wild Ramp and Ham soup | West Virginia Mountain Mama

  10. Pingback: Gregory Smith

  11. What an interesting post! I have friends who romp the forests around here looking for mushrooms and all sorts of fun edibles. I can’t wait to ask if they ever find “ramps!” Lovely post!

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