There are very few things in the world that could get me on my knees digging in the mud and rain. The annual sprouting of ramps is one of them. I thought of waiting to see if the rain would go away and not come again tomorrow and the day after. Recent experience, however, hasn’t provided much hope in that direction. On the contrary, we may need a course in Ark building soon. Our pond has completely overflowed its banks, the grass carp are now mowing the lower part of what used to be lawn, huge boulders are totally submerged and the picnic table is about to float away off into the woods. So I harvested ramps on the highest ground available.
Ramps are their own reward. Thought to be a cross between wild leeks and mild garlic, they are cherished for their unique contribution to numerous dishes. Leaf, stem and bulb are all edible. They may be justly nominated for divinity. Native and exclusive to North America, ramps can be found as far west as Minnesota and as far south as Tennessee in deciduous woodlands. Each year they send up bright green blades to pierce the last year’s fallen leaves before this year’s have unfurled. Preferring their six- to eight-week annual wild fling to the security of cultivation, they have resisted most attempts to be tamed.
The foothills of the Appalachia mountains are clotted with springtime festivals in honor of ramps, fondly known as “Little Stinkers”. Richwood, West Virginia has declared itself to be the ramp capital of the world. A mischievous erstwhile editor of the Richwood News Leader once mixed his ink with ramp juice. He printed his newspaper with the treated ink and sent it through the mail system to his subscribers. This prompted the Postmaster General to extract a promise from him to constrain himself in all future publications.
Locations of prosperous ramp patches have become well kept secrets. Ramps are fast becoming an endangered species as they are a very slow growing plant taking up to seven years to mature. Which hasn’t stopped the unscrupulous from mass harvesting on state preserves for commercial purposes. Ramps are sold in New York and San Francisco for as much as $25 a pound. Once you find a good-sized patch, it is recommended to not take more than 10 to 15% of it in any one year.
In previous years we have offered several recipes for ramps, including: Ramp Soup, Ramp Frittata, Farrotto with Ramps, Fiddlehead Ferns and Asparagus and Shrimp and Ramps. Check out the website for those and many other recipes using this delicate seasonal extravagance. The advent of the zoodle, noodles made from spiralizing zucchini, are a nice way to keep the carb and calorie count under control. With that in mind, today we’re offering a dish called Gingered Zoodles with Ramps, Mushrooms and Tomatoes. It tastes like decadence though it is entirely guilt free and healthy.