Monday, April 13, 2009

The Ramp Dinner

I referred recently to preparing a "ramp dinner." What is a ramp dinner?

It's a meal centered around one of West Virginia's favorite wild foods, the wild ramp (or rampion, as it is called by some). In our state, there are many civic organizations that host ramp dinners, or ramp feeds as they are often called, during April and early May. That is when the wild ramps are young, tender and at their best.

Larry's recent expeditions in the hills have produced a nice lot of ramps for our meals and freezer. Last night we invited some friends over and prepared a traditional ramp dinner just for the five of us.

What is typically served at a ramp dinner? The answer might surprise you. This is simple country food, not anything fancy, although some places do have cooking contests for ramps, and try many unusual recipes with them. But most ramp dinners stick to the tried and true. Here's a closer photo of what we fixed last night:

Starting at the top and moving clockwise:

  • scrambled eggs (from our chickens--I made these without ramps, but many people mix ramps into the eggs)
  • applesauce (from our cellar)
  • ham
  • fried red-skinned potatoes (not from the cellar, though--ours have finally gotten too sprouted out to use)
  • pinto beans with ramps (cooked by Larry)
  • skillet cornbread (some people put ramps in the cornbread, but I didn't) with cow butter--a gift from a neighbor.

The only thing we were missing was sassafras tea--we haven't gone out to dig any roots yet.

Today Larry is trying something new--drying ramps. I'd like to have them on hand to use in other recipes year-round, as an alternative to garlic perhaps. We'll see how this experiment turns out.


Carol said...

I live in Muscogee Creek Indian territory in OK and the Spring speciality here is wild onions with pinto beans and fry bread -- UMMMM!

I must have missed the post about what "ramps" are. I have made the assumption that it is wild garlic????

Granny Sue said...

Very close relative of garlic, Carol--maybe like a cross between garlic and leeks? only exceedingly strong and flavorful. They are a mountain favorite with some people, hated by others because you will reek if you eat them raw.

Rowan said...

THis sounds really good I'll have mine without the scrambled egg though please:) There's nothing like good plain country cooking.

Anonymous said...

I transplanted over 200 ramps last weekend. I decided to put them in rows this time so the intrepid young ramp digger won't interpet it as natural growth. I had been planting them randomly, but decided that this might draw unwanted attention. Shortly after getting them into the ground, we had a nice soaking rain. They greened right up. I hope to get them established enough for my own use. Just hope no one gets the wrong idea when I talk about my "personal patch" that is "grown for my own use". Could get interesting!

Wonder if I could get some mollymoocher seeds?

Granny Sue said...

Hmmmm...I don't know about mollymoocher seeds. Mushrooms have spores, so I am not sure how you could start a patch. There must be a way, though.

Jason Burns said...

You could always get a mushroom log and grow your own. Some people do. There is a guy that comes to Mountaineer Week every year that sells them. He's called the Mushroom Man, I'm not sure what his real name is. He's grown his own mushrooms under his kitchen sink.

I think all you really need are spores, a damp, dark place, and a log to grow them on.

Jason Burns said...

Here's a website that shows how to do it. Apparently it is quite difficult to grow morels. The Mushroom Man only grows shitake mushrooms and a few other kinds, not morels.

Jaime said...

I really want to know bow drying them works out. I'd love to make a powder out of them to replace garlic or onion powder.

The Holmes Crew said...

I guess you learn something new every day! Never heard of it before! But does sound yummy!

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