Ramps: Yes, Larry and the girls found ramps all right. These are the red mountain ramps, extremely pungent and tasty--and memorable. If you've ever had ramps, you know how long the strong garlic-y smell will stay on your breath and oozing from your pores. But oh so good, and sought after by gourmet chefs everywhere. Also, according to Larry, another spring tonic (add it to the list we started with sassafras!).
A fine mess of ramps. These aren't for eating though--Larry plans to try to start his own patch on our farm. Ramps are not native to Jackson County, but we're hoping that if we find just the right spot we might be able to grow our own.
This is what Larry thought was goldenseal (or "yalluh root" as he calls it. the "ya" rhymes with "ca" in cat).
Was he right?
Nope. This is actually bloodroot, another herb prized by the native Americans for use as a dye for baskets and to make war paint; also as an insect repellent. When the stem is broken or the root pierced, it oozes red juice. This is a member of the poppy family, and the spike you see in the photo is a flower bud. It blooms a very lovely white flower similar to that of the mayapple.
So this plant will also go back into the woods in hopes of rooting it on our land. Larry said there was a very large patch of it on the mountain where he found this, so I didn't feel too badly about him pulling it.
After our research we are both clear on what goldenseal looks like and will be on the lookout for this old-time medicinal herb in our woods.
Here is a close-up of the bloodroot leaf.
The mushroom hunters return. Did they find anything? They look pensive, but actually Larry was telling Hannah about what his granny used to do with yellowroot.
Yep, they found some!
These were actually growing very near the edge of the highway.
We decided to try a quick hunt for the elusive morel when we saw two men, acting a little furtive, dart into the woods. One was carrying an old pan and it looked like it was full of something that could only be morels. So we drove a little further up the road and Larry popped over the bank himself. Luck struck quickly.
He only gathered enough for a good meal tonight. This picture is before I cleaned them and soaked them in salt water to drive out any bugs hidden in the cap's many folds.
Dinner tonight will be batter-fried morels, and ramps with fried potatoes. Completely off our diet, but completely in tune with the seasons of the mountains.
(funny, Spell-Checker doesn't know anything about mountain foods and herbs--it doesn't recognize yellowroot, goldenseal, mollymoochers, or bloodroot. Must not be from here.)