Ramp Dinners and Festivals


The breezy winds of springtime bring scents of blossoms and flowering things…while young and old males, from wee pups to old gassers, spend odd afternoons and evenings passing the time at Ramp Festivals, high up in the Appalachian Mountains. These community events feature the stinking plant- the ramp or wild leek, beans (not a pleasant mixture), eggs and fried potatoes, and often a pork component, just to kick in more internal combustion. These are usually supplemented with sweet tea or sassafrass tea, cornbread or the like, and pies and sweets. The whole combination makes for a rousing gastrointestinal chorus and a flavor not soon to be forgotten.

To say that West Virginian males love ramps and West Virginia females do not would be sexist. There is, however, an old saying that “ramps are not for the ladies, nor them’s that’s courtin’ them.” For good reason. Eat a mess of ramps and you’ll discover why. If the Big Bad Wolf had eaten his ramps, every house he tried to blow down would be a pile of rubble.  And, if ramp breath doesn’t knock you over, the colonic tonic it causes may just do it for you…hello, Immodium, goodbye honey…

But it isn’t fair to say that ramps are an evil plant that must be eradicated. In fact, they are a distinctly rare delicacy that need protection in the wild. Digging ramps is genius level, but it takes an understanding of forest flora and plant life.

In the above picture, I am using a small plastic utensil to dig around the ramp cluster. Then, I carefully cut them or dig them to the point that they have plenty of root left in the ground so the ramp cluster will continue to produce. It is the lack of that education that threatens to make the stinking gold even more rare…an unfortunate result that could wipe out local funds raised in small town ramp dinners. These small communities rely on the continuation of the plant’s production every year. If the stock of ramp plants dwindle, then so will the financial health of those civic organizations that benefit from ramp dinners.

If you live in an area where the wild leek thrives, do the right thing- be a preservationist, not an opportunist.

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