March 20, 2013

Appalachian Spring - Early Ramps

 Today is the first day of spring. The weather in my area seems not to have noticed since it has been cold and not spring like. However, the first telltale sign of spring is sitting my fridge, early ramps. Now if you have read this blog for any given amount of time you will have noticed that every spring I talk about ramps. They are a stable of our spring meals and a great substitute for leeks or onions in recipes. While many people prefer the later ramps which have a green leafy top, I am a much bigger fan of the early ramps which are more flavorful and delicious with dishes like pot roast. I am lucky that my in-laws live in the foothills of the West Virginia mountains and are able to buy ramps for me as soon as they are available. They are definitely a great spring vegetable and a quintessential part of the diet of many Appalachians.

Today was the day that I cleaned and prepped the 2 pounds of ramps that have been sitting in my cold hallway for the last couple of days. Here is what an uncleaned early ramp looks like:

west virgnia, early ramps, appalachia
Uncleaned Early West Virginia Ramps

In case you have never seen or heard of a ramp before they are a basically a north American wild leek. Ramp patches are heavily guarded secrets for many families and are one of the first signs that spring has arrived. The ramps that I prefer are the early ramps which do not the green tops that are common in many ramps recipes. To me the early ramps have a stronger flavor and work more efficiently in roasted potato and chicken recipes than the ramps with green tops. As the photo above demonstrates early ramps are pretty dirty. Unless you spend the large amount more money to buy cleaned ramps you will be cleaning the ramps like I do. To clean just cut off the roots and be sure to soak off all the dirt. After they are cleaned they look like the photo below:

West Virginia, WV, Ramps, Early ramps, Appalachia
Cleaned West Virginia Early Ramps

Ramps can be used a variety of recipes. Early ramps are great pickled, used in pot roast, with roasted potatoes, or as a substitute for leeks or onions. My husband has even used them as a hot dog topping in place of onions. Later ramps with the green tops are great in pesto, biscuits, fried with bacon, or with pinto beans and cornbread. Stay tuned tomorrow when I will use ramps along with potatoes and pesto for a roasted chicken recipe.
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