I am so ashamed of myself. West Virginia born and raised, and I didn't know a ramp when I saw one.
Research on the onion garlic (oops - I meant to say garlic chives) introduced at last week's herb class led me to photos of my mystery plant, and it turns out they are the related plant known as ramsons, AKA ramps. Ramps are wild leeks prized in the south for pungent, tasty spring dishes. And West Virginia is the ramp capital of the world. It is home to a number of famous "ramp feeds," foremost among them the annual event in Richwood. There, hundreds of people come from miles around to enjoy ramps with the traditional sides of bacon, beans and cornbread.
Now in all fairness, we were townies. We lived in the suburbs in Charleston. Ramp feeds were something we saw on the news, and they happened out in the country. We were good with that, because ... well, because people who do eat ramps stink for days. We are talking way beyond garlic here. The ramp isn't just on your breath; it actually permeates your system, and is excreted from the skin as well, so that your personal stench cloud extends for a few feet in all directions. But those who love them swear it's worth a few days in exile.
I remember my dad, a country boy at heart, coming home from business in the hills a few times after having partaken. He was indeed impressively odiferous. My mother would fuss and scold about it, but he just endured her displeasure with a sheepish grin. I don't think he was the least bit sorry. When I realized what my "exotic wildflowers" were, I could almost hear him laughing at me from Heaven.
So will I fry up a mess o' ramps this spring? I don't think my coworkers would appreciate it, but we'll see. We'll see.
Beauty And The Beast
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