So today I stopped in town when I saw this sign:
That chance stop led to an interesting conversation with the ramp's seller, Shonna.
I mentioned that we still had plenty of dried ramps from last year.
"I guess I'm a traditionalist," Shonna said. "I think it best to eat foods in season. Ramps and dandelions and milkweed in the spring, that's when we should eat them, and not put them up for other seasons. Because then they lose their specialness, and we don't have it to look forward to."
She has a point. In our world where almost all foods are available year-round, even the specialness of strawberries has waned. We can get them anytime of the year now, where once they were a May-June treat. But, like most people, I am glad to have them whenever I want them, and I do love the ability to add the unique flavor of ramps to foods when I think it will add a new dimension to the taste.
"How do you cook your ramps?" she asked, and then went on to say, "Here's something you need to try: put some oil or grease in a pan, add a little sugar and a little vinegar, then "melt" the ramps in that. You won't believe the flavor." It sounded a lot like wilted lettuce to me, and that's a delicious dish. So I will give her recipe a try.
I asked her about milkweed. "People mess up because they don't parboil and throw the water out. You got to do that or they taste bad." Very similar to cooking pokeweed, I asked? Exactly, she said.
And then she asked, "Do you ever eat dandelions?"
"Do you mean dandelion greens?"
"No, the flower. Here's what I do. I pop the flowerheads off, and remove ALL of the stem, but leave that green part under the flower. Then wash and shake to make sure all the ants and stuff are out of them. Then roll in a batter and fry them. They taste a lot like mushrooms (meaning morels)."
"When I make my mushrooms, I soak 'em in beer, not salt water like most people do. Then I dip them in batter and fry them. Talk about good!"
I tucked my bag of ramps in the van and waved goodbye. I sure hope I run into this lady again. She's full of nature lore and wildcrafting information, not from books but from family passing it down and personal experience--a rare person these days.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.