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Do You Like Ramps?

Ramps

ramp noun A wild leek (Allium tricoccum) having a pungent taste and smell. Considered a delicacy by some, it is celebrated each spring in the Ramp Festival held near Crosby TN. It is sometimes eaten for its tonic effect.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

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Ramps have a garlicy onion taste-only with a more intense flavor and smell. Generally they can be found at higher elevations on the north side of mountain ridges from South Carolina all the way to Canada.

In Appalachia, ramp hunting in the spring takes on a celebratory air. Crosby TN isn't the only place hosting annual Ramp Festivals. You can find them throughout the mountains. Murphy has hosted one for several years. 

In our immediate area there aren't many if any ramp patches because we live slightly below the elevation they are usually found. The patches in the higher areas are kept top secret by the people who know where they're at.

How to eat Ramps

When The Deer Hunter was young, Papaw Tony and him went camping every weekend during the spring to trout fish, ride horses, and dig ramps. I can't remember Granny and Pap ever eating ramps. I do recall people at school complaining about the smell of kids whose family partook of ramps in a large fashion.

The whole ramp is edible although folks typically use the lower stem and bulb. The growing season is short, but you can freeze them for later use.

I've read you can use ramps in any recipe that calls for onion or garlic, but the most common way to eat them in Appalachia is fried with potatoes. Folk also like to eat them raw or scrambled with eggs.

Be sure to drop back by next Monday for a story about eating ramps from Charles Fletcher. 

Tipper

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I don't eat onions, and garlic only hidden in spaghetti sauce, hubby loves onions and would love these I am sure. Ramps are new to me, have not seen or heard of them...

Another use for ramps is one I discovered while working construction on the Smoky Park bridge remodel in Asheville back in the 70s. We locals worked alongside the 'Yanks' quite a bit, and we had to work harder for our pay, it always seemed. When ramp season came around, we locals partook of the loud wild onions as often as we could, resulting in odiferous sweat on those hot afternoons. The 'Yanks', especially our bosses, wouldn't much mess with us for a few weeks.
I am looking forward to eating my fried taters and eggs with some ramps, and pickling a few jars for future reference.
Love from the riverbank in Marshall!

The ramp festival is in Cosby, TN, not Crosby.

Use to love them in scrambled eggs and also in sauteed greens (turnip/mustard/collards even spinach), but a few years back, I developed a horrible allergy to most onions, so now I can't have ramps anymore.
I've heard someone pickles the bulbs and uses the greens in recipes calling for onions and garlic which sounds yummy for meatloaf, meatballs and such, but sadly, they aren't on my menu anymore. :(
God bless.
RB
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Marshall-the ramp festival is usually at the end of April. I didn't see it on the Cherokee County event calendar though. You can keep check on it here: http://www.visitcherokeecountync.com/fm/events/ 


Have a great evening!

Blairsville, GA has a ramp festival at the Union County Farmer's Market. It should be coming up some time soon. I'll post when I find out. The fried ramps and potatoes are delicious!

I love Ramps and since have retired can enjoy them. They are great with fried taters by my favorite is Kilt Lettuce (Branch or Leaf) and Ramps (see Jim's comment) with a pone of Cornbread, fish and Sweet Milk. I have found that if you eat Peanut Butter after the Ramps it tends to reduce the Sulfur Odor on some folks breath.

A few more thoughts on ramps!

1. Ramps in the spring will make the water taste funny.

2. Ramps can destroy a lifelong friendship. For a day or two anyway, til the smell goes away.

3. Hunting ramps is like hunting ginseng and other wild game. You have to sneak up on them before they run.

4. Ramps are migratory. You can scout out a patch that is just peeking through the soil and come back two days later only to find they have moved on. Its either that or one of your buddies heard you talking and beat you back to them.

5. Ramps have no natural predators. Only humans eat them. Humans aren't natural.

6. If your milch cows eat ramps their milk will taste like it would if they have been in wild onions.

7. Cattle don't particularly like ramps but aren't smart enough to know they aren't just big bladed grass. If its green and gets in front of their noses a cow will eat it. That's why people put their cattle up and grain feed them for a couple of weeks before slaughter. A couple of ramps can ruin a several hundred pounds of Waygu beef.

8. I just made up No. 7 but if it ain't true, it ought to be.

9. Handicap ramps are for people who can't get out in the woods because their walkers and wheelchairs don't have 4-wheel drive. That sounds mean but the humor outweighs the insensitivity. I considered getting a handicapped placard to put on my rear view mirror but I wouldn't use it. There is always someone coming along who is in worse shape than me.

10. Did you ever park beside an errant shopping cart so you could use it to help you get in the store? Oops, Sorry! I was talking about ramps.

Tipper,
Ramps are a delicacy but I would never eat any then go to school. I knew what would happen if I got sent home. But I love them with diced potatoes and fried. I wait till the taters are done and just saute the ramps at the ending. Don and Jim Casada brought some a few years ago, along with some Morels and we had a good time at my shop. ...Ken

when is the ramp festivals held? or do you know anyone who does know?

Jim beat me to the punch about the frou frou restaurants now serving ramps. 'bout split a gut when I heard one of those highfalutin chefs explaining ramps on the Food Network.

I love ramps with fried potatoes or eggs. My wife, a former grade school teacher always came home this time of year with stories from school about dismissing some of the students who had ate ramps the day before for the strong odor. Erwin TN will have a Ramp festival this month.

Ramps are one food I love to eat but can't. The taste is wonderful but the after effect isn't and lingers for days. I hate people who eat ramps for a variety of reasons.
1. They can eat them and I can't!
2. The smell the next day is awful. Not only is it on their breath but it it oozes from every pore.
3. In elementary school they got to go outside all day if it was warm or sit in the hall if it wasn't.
4. The smell is not even noticeable if EVERYBODY eats them. I am not part of EVERYBODY.
5. Did I mention I can't eat ramps and others can?

I don't really hate anyone because they can eat something I can't.
Yes, I do!
Yes, I Do!!
YES, I DO!!!

Several years ago we were walking on a late Sunday afternoon on the JCC campus. We ran into David Bose, he had just come from a ramp festival. After a long discussion he share some with us. We took them with us to dinner out that night.

I do like ramps but do not live where they grow. Only a few times have I found them in the spring. I like morels better though.

Ramp time is a big deal around here. I know of two festivals nearby, and they serve a wonderful ramp casserole. It has always been one of my favorite times because it welcomes Spring. I really did not discover until I was an adult, because my parents were not fans of garlic or ramps. Great post!

The only reason I can think of for never eating ramps is that they must not grow where I'm from. Mom knew how to identify every edible wild plant and couldn't wait to hunt them in the spring. She definitely didn't serve ramps in her kitchen. Makes me wonder why no one I know ate them, especially with the high elevations in Eastern KY and the area surrounding the Breaks Interstate Park. It might be worth a trip to Murphy or Crosby during the celebration.

Tipper--A few random comments on that incomparable gustatory delight called a ramp.
*When cooked, ramps lose virtually all their pungent after effect. It is ramps eaten raw which redefine halitosis.
*It was quite common in my 1950's boyhood for youngsters who had eaten raw ramps to be sent home from school. You simply couldn't stay in the same classroom with them without being nauseated.
*Ramps are in fairly widespread use in today's haute cuisine. They appear with some regularity on hoity-toity menus.
*If you go on a backcountry fishing trip or outing such as those you described, where there is overnight camping and sharing a tent involved, rest assured that if one person in the party eats ramps everyone will (In self defense). Once you eat them raw you don't smell the others who have eaten them.
*My favorite way of eating ramps, and it's an old mountain favorite as well which you don't mention, is in a "kilt" salad featuring raw ramps, branch lettuce (saxifrage), crumbled bacon, and hot bacon grease as a dressing. Served with pan-fried, fresh-caught trout all dressed up in cornmeal dinner jackets, with a side dish of fried potatoes and onions, it's as fine as a soul could want to dine.
*I think if you check you'll find that is is Cosby, TN (not Crosby) where the ramp festival is held. It's a community just outside the northern portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddling Cocke and Sevier counties. It's an area long known for moonshining.
*There are many other festivals in the mountains from West Virginia on south.

Tipper,
We transplanted ramps back on our hill on the more north side a few years ago. My husband walked up the hill back into the woods last year, but didn't see any ramps. So we guessed they didn't do well there. Well, they are one food I can do with or do without, as long as I have onions, garlic and leeks!
I like my ramps sautéed and then scrambled up with eggs. That is how I first learned to eat them, so I guess ramps and eggs will always be my favorite way to eat them.
I always heard that you should never eat ramps alone. Always eat ramps with company! However, that can be said about pinto beans too! HA
There is always someone selling ramps along side the road up toward Cosby and Newport TN...this time of year, if you are one that don't like to hike and dig around on a mountain side hunting them!
Thanks Tipper,
PS...I can almost smell ramps n' eggs on this rainy Monday morning!

I am familiar with ramps but I do not like to eat them. They are too strong for me.
An old friend who has passed on use to have a cookout each year and fry up ramps and potatoes. I never knew where the ramp patch was that he pulled them from, like you said it was kind of a secret.

While turkey hunting in Elliot Co, KY. my buddy and I found a patch of ramps. I ate several and he didn't eat any. Evertime I got near him he told me I stunk.
I transplanted ramps to the ole family farm about 20 yrs. ago. They have now spread high on the hill all the way to the creek.

I wonder if they have the same medicinal properties as garlic and onions

I've been wanting to try ramps for quite a while, but I've never found any patches of them during spring hikes. Based on the prices I've seen, the Ramp Festval folks seem to think ramps are as valuable as saffron or at least "sang". Guess if I ever taste any I'll have to pay the price.

Ramps are one of the unique Appalachian foods I fell in love with when we moved here. Along with creasy greens, morels and candy roasters.

I've eaten ramps but never cared much for them. They were a little strong and smelly for me. Folks I know that like ramps usually really like them a lot. They are certainly a tradition in the mountains.

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