A West Virginia Springtime Favorite: Ramps

As the weather warms up and the woods turn green here in WV, there’s a unique sprout that starts to dot the hillsides. Scientific types refer to these sprouts as “allium tricoccum”, but locals call them ramps.  Ramps are a spring onion/wild leek that cause quite a little frenzy around these parts.
Ramps grow everywhere from South Carolina to Canada, and are very thick in and around the New River Gorge. They are considered a delicacy here and many communities have festivals to celebrate their arrival. Spring means folks all over the state are combing the hillsides to pick ramps and use them to flavor everything from potatoes to scrambled eggs.

Ramps in West Virginia

Why All The Fuss?
Economics has taught us when something has a limited supply you will always have great demand. This wild onion only grows for a limited number of weeks a year in the spring. And if you talk to most connoisseurs of the ramp, they will tell you that once they grow too large, the strength of their flavor is almost too potent to enjoy.
The ramp plant has a bright green, smooth leaf with a purple stalk and small bulb. Mountain folk have long celebrated their arrival, believing they have great powers to ward off ailments from winter. Whether or not that’s true, if you eat them they will definitely ward off folks who don’t enjoy their “bounty” (i.e., smell).
How To Eat Ramps
Folks who like ramps are always coming up with new and interesting ways to use them in their cooking. Here are just a few of the places we’ve seen ramps pop up:

  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Fried Potatoes
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Mixed with Greens in a Salad
  • Blended in Marinades
  • Topping for Pizza
  • Cooked in Beans
  • Soups
  • Pickled

The cities of Richwood and Elkins both host annual festivals to celebrate their arrival and feature dishes that highlight the flavor of ramps. Folks come from all over to partake in these celebrations of the ramp.
Try Your Hand At Cooking Ramps
Here’s a great recipe for ramps that you can try:
Potato and Ramp Soup

  • 4 to 6 slices bacon
  • 4 cups chopped ramps (including green)
  • 4 to 5 cups diced red potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, fry bacon until crispy; set bacon aside. Add ramps and potatoes to the skillet; fry on medium-low heat until ramps are tender. Sprinkle with flour; stir until flour is absorbed. Stir in chicken broth; simmer until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 to 6.
Do you have a favorite ramp recipe?  Share it in the comments below.