Spring Herb Hunt

Bring the ramp, a spring herb, to the table this season.

| March 28, 2014

RAMPS: The Cookbook (St. Lynn’s Press, 2012), from the Editors of St. Lynn’s Press, is chock-full of delicious recipes dedicated to the ramp. Ramps, similar to onions and garlic, have been a staple to Appalachian dishes for decades but are just now gaining wide popularity thanks to food writers and chefs. The following excerpt, from the Introduction, introduces the Appalachian roots and popularity of this spring herb.

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The ramp (Allium tricoccum) is a wild, spring herb that flourishes in the shade of hardwood forests. It is nurtured by the leafy mulch, which also provides consistent moisture. Unlike other alli­ums — garlic, onions, leeks, chives — it has a broad leaf one to two inches wide and ten to twelve inches long, as opposed to a tube. Its taste is somewhere between a garlic and an onion, except that it doesn’t have a sharp bite and it doesn’t make you cry. It has a rich taste, not like anything else, and it lingers long after the last morsel has been eaten.

Ramps are found throughout the Appalachian region and much of the northeastern United States, extending into Canada and as far west as Wisconsin. A slightly different variety of ramp can be found in Europe, Japan and the Far East. Ramps make their brief appearance in spring, when ramp diggers descend on the woods in search of this pungent treat.

An Appalachian Spring Herb

Hello, I’m Glen Facemire, Jr., and I was raised in the mountains of West Virginia. I have had the privilege of having ramps on my table for some 60 years. My mother would cold pack the ramps in half-gallon jars to last us through the winter. When spring arrived we would start all over and enjoy the fresh ramps, along with poke greens, fiddlehead ferns and mushrooms. Where I was raised, the logging camps in the spring of the year always had an air about them that was the aroma of ramps cooking. The cook would put them in fried potatoes for dinner and serve them with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

4/15/2014 7:08:10 AM

I used to live in western Virginia. Whenever we would mow the lawn it would smell strongly of onion. Locals told us it was ramps. However, they would grow all summer long and had a long thin leaf which is different than this article describes. Was this just a different variety of ramp, or a completely different plant?

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