Friday, October 10, 2008

Mystery Solved!

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.


sallyacious said...

The trick, as I remarked today in a costume fitting when the designer apologized for her coffee breath, is to make sure everybody has some. Then nobody notices.

I've never heard of ramps. Though as soon as you mentioned onions, I realized how much those "blooms" looked like alium, which are in the onion/garlic family.

sallyacious said...

Sorry, not onions, chives. You said chives. Same family, still.

MyMaracas said...

Sally - Oops,you're right, that was garlic chives. Still, alliums. It put me on the right track.

I was trying so hard to avoid stepping on any out in the woods. Had I broken a few, I'm sure the smell would have helped the identification process.

spookydragonfly said...

I would love to have an herb garden, but I'm in the same boat as Rambling Woods said in your previous post...not with my indoor cats(and outdoor cats for me). Glad your mystery is solved!

Rambling Woods said...

A ramp is not what you use to get on the thruway? Guess I am a hopeless not-gardener..GG

Kiva said...

I learn something every day. Are they in markets in WV or do you have to pick them in the wild?

MyMaracas said...

Spooky, You may want to give it go anyway. Gatsby has no interest in houseplants, and maybe your cats wouldn't either. Now that I think about it, though, I should check to make sure I don't plant anything that's poisonous to cats. I'll have to research that a bit.

Rambling, well yeah, that IS a ramp, but not nearly as stinky as the ones in the woods. ;-)

Kiva, Back when I lived there you either had to go out and dig up your own, or you had to know somebody who would give you some. Now that they're apparently more mainstream/gourmet, I'll bet you can buy them somewhere in town.