Spring is on its way, and nowhere is the scent of its rebirth quite so pungent than when ramps come popping from the ground. Formally known as Allium Tricoccum, a wild perennial onion, it has a unique flavor and aroma that is reminiscent of garlic and onion. But that doesn’t really tell half of its stinky story.
The little town of Richwood, WV is the self-proclaimed ‘Ramp Capital of the World’, boasting both a Ramp Festival and a Ramp Farm. Ramps have a cult-like following and are both savored and feared. Served at the famed Beard House in New York as a featured recipe of Chef Mario Batali, ramps are gaining the recognition their aroma deserves.
Ramp diggers from all over the east coast descend on West Virginia forests in early spring to harvest the wild onions. A member of the lily family with white bulbs and wide tender leaves, the whole plant is edible. Ramps grow in the higher elevations on north facing slopes. Prized by chefs and home cooks alike, they can be sautéed, baked, braised and included in just about any savory recipe. At the festival, you can find ramp jam, ramp jelly, ramp butter, ramp bread… well, you get the idea.
Their pungent aroma has given them the fond nickname of ‘little stinkers’. During the festival the aroma of the cooked ramps fills the air in Richwood. The festival includes a ramp dinner and a ramp recipe contest.
This year the 76th Festival of the Ramson will be held on April 26th. While Richwood boasts having the longest running festival, there are many throughout WV, PA and OH. We’ll be making our way to one, and we hope you can check one out, too. Don’t forget to bring some mouthwash and gum — not that it will help; ramps are not called little stinkers without reason.