Appalachia Appalachian Food

Ramps

If someone ever gives you a mess of ramps-then you know you have a real friend. When I returned home from KY-there was a bag of ramps hanging on my front door-left by 2 dear friends.

The following post was originally published here on the Blind Pig on May 17, 2008

Ramps

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. A few places have Ramp Festivals where you can try Ramps cooked in all sorts of dishes. In our immediate area there aren’t many Ramp Patches and the few locations are kept top secret by the ones who know where they’re at.

how to eat ramps
Since The Deer Hunter was raised “in the big mountains” (about 100 miles from here) he and his Dad are master Ramp Hunters. When he was growing up they went camping every weekend during the spring to trout fish, ride horses and hunt for Ramps.

The whole Ramp is edible although folks typically use the lower stem and bulb. The growing season is short for Ramps, 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, raw, or scrambled with eggs. Growing up my family never ate Ramps that I can remember-I do recall people at school complaining about the smell of kids whose family did eat Ramps.

According to The Master..I mean The Deer Hunter the best way to cook ramps is…

Papaw Tony cooking ramps and taters

 

with a cast iron pan full of potatoes on a campfire. Just like his Daddy taught him.

How about you-ever eat ramps?

Tipper

 

 

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37 Comments

  • Reply
    Tipper
    June 19, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Bmosteller-so glad you’re enjoying the Blind Pig!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia
    http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Bmosteller
    June 17, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I live in Washington State. I’m married to a man who was born in North Carolina. He loves ramps. We have relatives who live in North Carolina. They sent us some ramps. We planted them and are now going to seed. We have quite a good patch started. Love this website. Found receipe for pickeled beans and corn here. Made some last year but don’t put in cabbage or peppers. We both love them.

  • Reply
    Becky
    April 17, 2011 at 8:56 am

    No, I’ve never eaten ramps. I’ve heard of them all my life but no one I knew ate them. I would love to try them though.

  • Reply
    Osagebluffquilter
    April 15, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    We had at come back here and look at the ramps. The blacksmith thinks he mowed some off yesterday. We are still looking for them back.

  • Reply
    Gary Greene
    April 9, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Ramps are good with beans and as mentioned with Cornbread…Cosby Tn has a festival..each year too..Although its hard to believe in North Ga…I have had ramps that were grown in the NW Ga moinyains

  • Reply
    PinncleCreek
    April 8, 2011 at 9:08 am

    WV mountains are known for ramps with many ramp festivals in the area. There is an awesome cassarole made with ramps, potatoes,sausage,and cheese. I usually buy some ramps to freeze. They have such a pungent odor that I went to visit a family early one morning, and I could smell them as I was getting out of the car; they were cooking ramps and eggs. The Deerhunter is wise indeed to cook his Appalachian cuisine outside. LOL

  • Reply
    janet pressley
    April 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Thanks for the ramps whoever brought them – they were very much enjoyed by myself in some fried potatoes!! Thanks to Papaw’s cooking. I could not stop! nana

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    April 7, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    I love ramps — wish they grew on our mountain.

  • Reply
    downthelanegirl
    April 7, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    Hi Tipper,
    Honest to goodness, I thought ramps were only found in the mountains of West Virginia where I live. They sell for $3.50 to $4.00 a pound right now. I love them but only eat them about twice a year. I have to schedule three days away from the public because I refuse to be around people when I eat them. Bob commented on Helvetia. I love that place. It’s magical, but never made it there for a ramp festival.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    April 7, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    i think the master is a smart cookie.. those potatoes and ramps sound delicious. i love any type of onion, garlic.. etc. so i am sure that they would be great and i would love to try them.. ahh maybe one day.. thanks for sharing and i love all the other stories in response 🙂
    big ladybug hugs
    lynn

  • Reply
    Debora Kerr
    April 7, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    I’ve never lived anywhere with ramps around, but I’ve had wild onions sprout up on my property over the last few years. I like this blog that has photos of the onions vs. the ramps. And recipes!
    http://foyupdate.blogspot.com/2010/04/wild-onions-collecting-and-gathering.html

  • Reply
    Lisa @ Two Bears Farm
    April 7, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    Paul just brought some of these in the other day, but we haven’t eaten them yet.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Bradley, it’s not methane that’s the problem. Ramps by themselves do have a hefty onion family odor. Last week, we had to open up the doors on a pretty cool evening after we’d worked up a mess of them to put in the freezer.
    But when eaten raw, they somehow react with the body to create an aroma that has no parallel. If you’re from western NC, you may remember the chemical plant that used to be at Enka (we called it Enka-stinka). Take that plant, throw in a double dose of the way the Champion Paper Mill used to smell in the old days, stick them in a both in a coat closet, and you’ve got something that would be a poor second to being in the same classroom as a feller that’s eaten a big bait of raw ramps and worked up a good sweat.
    Okay, I might have exaggerated. But only a little.
    I had me some for supper by the way – cooked with some potatoes, and the leaves taken to the black side of wilted. I’d had a tummy ache all week – it’s gone (ain’t been a germ born yet that could survive the assault).

  • Reply
    Mamabug
    April 7, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I’ve known about them for a long time but never been lucky enough to put my hands on any. I love garlic and onions so bet I would love ramps too.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    April 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I love ramps, but they don’t love me! Have you ever had them in meatloaf? Yummy. If you you parboil them, they aren’t as smelly, but you lose some of that distictive ramp flavor. I hear they sell upwards of $50 gallon in West Virginia & know of them going for $40 here in Haywood County. Thinking of expanding my top secret patch.

  • Reply
    Jen
    April 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I have never heard of ramps before. They sound like something I would enjoy a great deal, though!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Like those old pictures of the Deer Hunter and his Dad.
    I’ve eaten ramps cooked and raw but I have to admit I’m not too fond of them. I’d take sweet onions over them any day. lol!

  • Reply
    Catharine
    April 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Ramps, you betcha! But you need to either live alone or feed ’em to everyone around you! They’re especially good in small quantities sauteed in butter, fried with potatoes, chopped into potato salad, tossed with fresh greens. Wish I still lived in the mountains… Hope the gatherers will leave some in the hills…

  • Reply
    Mike
    April 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Hi, Here in Upstate NY we call them Wild Leaks. The leaves are great boiled with a little butter on them (tastes like garlicky spinach). The bulbs are great fried up with venison. I’ll try them with potatoes!
    Spring is still a couple weeks away up here, but they will be up soon.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    April 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I’ve had ramps, and they’re good but strong, so I can’t eat many.
    We have several ramp festivals in the area and they’re all fun to go to.

  • Reply
    Ken
    April 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Tipper,
    A friend brought me a big mess
    of ramps recently. They were froze
    but that didn’t matter and soon as
    my diced taters were about ready,
    in went the ramps and I thumbolted
    the door.
    Never ate ramps during my school years cause I saw a bunch of guys get expelled for a couple
    of days and I didn’t want that.
    …Ken

  • Reply
    Bradley
    April 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I don’t remember ever hearing about ramps. After reading the post Don wrote, I also didn’t know about the problem that could come from eating them. I am assuming it has to do with methane. That could be a problem. I recall when I was in School we had guy that enjoyed pinto beans but, they really gave him a problem ( and everyone else close by). If you were unfortunate enought to get behind him at class break it was just awful. He sounded like one of those big ten wheel dump trucks with a Jake-Brake slowing down for a stop light.
    Bradley

  • Reply
    Dorothy
    April 7, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Well you are never too old to learn something new. I never heard of ramps. They look like little wild onions we have in Kansas. Interesting! Haven’t even seen any here in years.

  • Reply
    Leon
    April 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Never heard of ramps – but I’d love to try them!

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    April 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

    When they’ve been cooked, they really don’t leave an odor. I like mine sauteed in a bit of butter. The tender leaves need to reach a state of being just slightly blackened. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Tipper, do you have any you can share?
    Now ramps eaten raw is a whole ‘nuther story. There was an Indian boy I went to school with whose family had a spring tradition of feasting on a big ol’ bait of ramps. He’d always eat some raw and as a result, get a couple of days of personal spring vacation every year (the teacher would send him home to air out). That is, up until the 8th grade when a teacher who was wise to the ways of mountain boys (being one himself) didn’t send him home – he sent him over to sit in the school auditorium and assigned him work that would take him all day to complete.

  • Reply
    Rod
    April 7, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Ramps, yessss. Would certainly enjoy some but the closest patch would be several hundred miles from where I am and with gas over $4.00 a gallon I think not. So for all who do have access please do enjoy some for me. I like’em anyway you can fix’em and even raw chopped into soup beans and the raw leaves in a spring salad with wild dandelion and mustard greens. And by the way, time to dig sassafras root for that tasty spring tonic, sassafras tea. Don’t you just love spring?

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 7, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Hey Tipper,
    I’ve eaten ramps and potatoes and ramps and eggs. They are strong, but I’ve also ate many a mess of fried ‘taters, onions and garlic. About the same..only more pungent! I figure the health benefit of the garlic, onion or ramps outway the fried portion..Not, Doc sez? ha….
    We had a mess of morel mushrooms out of our secret patch, in the yard from under the apple tree! Whoops, not secret now!..We left some for the spores to spread…It works ’cause this year we got a bunch! They were good too, to me they taste like fried oysters!..Wish I could walk the woods and hunt them again…
    Husband checked our patch of ramps on the North side of the little holler here…he didn’t see any. We tried planting some a couple of years ago…none so far…some folks do start their own patches…
    He did find a large patch of Ground Pine that we thought we had lost after the woods fire…guess it just moved…so it was worth a trip back in the woods…
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Rose
    April 7, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I have never heard of ramps, and I have not eaten them. I have learned something new today. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Sandra
    April 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

    just showed this to bob and we have not seen these before. he says they look like scallions. i don’t eat onions so would not eat these. lots of new info here. bob would love them

  • Reply
    kat
    April 7, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Interesting but never heard of them. If the price of groceries keep going up we may be glad to have ramps and anything else we can find to fill our stomachs.

  • Reply
    Bob Dalsemer
    April 7, 2011 at 8:58 am

    I spent a year in Randolph County, WV where I was introduced to ramps. Just about every town had a Ramp Festival in the spring. I helped gather and clean ramps for the big supper in Helvetia where they were fried with potatoes in bacon fat. I even recall a Dairy Queen that had ramp burgers. During ramp season, kids could be sent home from school if they smelled (the smell comes out your pores when you sweat). I have to admit that I never got to appreciate ramps as much as those who grew up with them.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    April 7, 2011 at 8:36 am

    I ate some Sunday morning Tipper–maybe from the same “dear friends”! I was afraid to go out all day. But they sure were good!

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph. D.
    April 7, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Oh yes! There were kids in school who partook of ramps! My mama never gathered a mess of ramps as far as I know! But daddy’s folks on Tusquittee were well acquainted with the stinking things! I think folks should leave them for the wild Boar!
    Cheers,
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    April 7, 2011 at 8:10 am

    I’ve heard people talk about eating ramps, but as far as I know I never had any. I figure I eat enough stuff, no need to start with anything so exotic at this age. hehe..

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    April 7, 2011 at 7:54 am

    I grew up in East Tennessee and every year, the news would always have the doin’s at the Cosby Ramp Festival. Never got there and have never tasted ramps. The Deer Hunter’s way sounds delicious and there is always something about cooking over an open fire that makes delicious food even better! Potatoes and garlicky flavor make a great combination.

  • Reply
    Ethel
    April 7, 2011 at 7:26 am

    We have ramps here in the northern foothills too. They are rare and highly prized. Those who can find a patch can pretty much name their price. I wouldn’t walk across the room for them – too strong for me!

  • Reply
    Clint
    April 7, 2011 at 6:26 am

    I used to hear about ramps from my parents. A few years ago, someone gave my dad some of the plants. He said you could smell them even before they came up out of the ground, and he was right. I didn’t eat any of them, and I don’t think my parents did either.

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