Ramps! The King of Stink

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Bloody Stinkin' Mary

Bloody Stinkin' Mary

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If you love ramps then this is the place for you. This site is always under revision and any help would be appreciated. If you don't see your favorite ramp dinner listed, then send me some information such as date, time, place, cost and phone number for contact. And if you have a recipe to share, then please send that also. My purpose here is to provide some publicity for one of the most odoriferous foods known to man.

If you have never heard of ramps, then please stick around. You might decide to try some! And if you have heard of them, well then, you either love them or hate them!

According to "The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers", the ramp, or wild leek, is a member of the lily family. The latin name is Allium tricoccum. Their description is: Tall leaves rise from an onion-like bulb and wither before the flowers appear, leaving a naked stem topped by a domed cluster of creamy-white flowers; entire plant has a mild onion taste. The ramp flowers from June-July and grows in rich, moist woods. The growing range is New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and New England; south to Delaware and Maryland, in uplands to Georgia and Tennessee; west to Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. They also make a note that besides being eaten, Indians treated insect stings with juice from the crushed bulbs.

The USDA has a nice profile of ramps. It even shows the areas of the country where they can be found. There is also some info on Wikipedia, of course!

Some people like to pick their own ramps to eat and others pick them to serve at fund raising dinners. I have been told that done properly, people disturb the surrounding ground less than a turkey or deer. In my opinion, most people and groups are smart enough to leave enough plants to reseed an area. Unfortunately, some authorities think an area can become overpicked. This seems to be the situation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for several years. Now the Nantahala National Forest has come under attack by the "ramp revenuers". In recent years there have been new restrictions placed in the forest. I wonder if the Forest Service officials plan to go into the woods and tell the deer and turkeys what they are allowed to eat. So far, ramp picking in Virginia and West Virginia have not come under attack. No wonder there are more dinners in West Virginia than any other state. Are Ramp Festivals Sustainable? is an interesting article by the USDA - Forest Service, Southern Research Station.

If you don't enjoy picking them yourself, there are plenty of dinners to attend. The dinner at Richwood WV is considered the most famous in West Virginia and the oldest ramp festival to my knowledge. The festival at Cosby Tennessee has quite a history also. It takes a lot of ramps to put on a dinner as one USDA Forest Service project determined.

© 2020 Anita Toth Simpson

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