Growing up in the New York metropolitan area, I was unaware of wild ramps until I moved to Tennessee. There, each year there is a ramp festival in Cosby, east of Knoxville. I never went so it wasn’t until last year, with the warmer spring weather, my CSA box rom Fish Hawk Acres was full of ramps week after week. It was a wonderful introduction to this wild leek.
Last year, as the local market was formed in Huntington, a naming contest was held on Facebook and The Wild Ramp won by popular vote. It has helped teach consumers about how a local market works: produce is available only when in season. At least once a week a newbie to the market asks if we have any ramps. One of our farmers, Aimee Figgatt of Tyler Creek Farm, dried some ramps last year and gave me a small baggie as a Christmas gift. Part of that was used at the Cast Iron Cook-Off but we will be able to enjoy a sprinkle of ramps out of season now.
I have a friend who shared a childhood story with me. Growing up in coal country, he attended a one-room school house. He said by the time ramps appeared in the woods people were eager for greens and the odors in the school room grew until children started to get kicked out for several days to let the oils subside. He said several kids who didn’t particularly care for school stretched out their ramp eating as long as possible to avoid class.
The colder spring temperatures this year mean the ramps are appearing later. The Richwood Ramp Festival is scheduled for April 20 and many fire halls and churches hold ramp supper fund raisers this time of year throughout Appalachia, even north into Quebec!