Ramp hunting has been a springtime tradition for generations around here. A ramp is not a wild critter related to a snipe…rather, it is a wild onion. A ramp has a beautiful green leaf, which is what sticks out of the ground so they can be picked. The little bulb is pretty small, the prize ramp being maybe as big around as my thumb. They are pretty strong tasting. Even a little peppery. But my, oh my, are they good!
Ramps grow wild only above 2100 foot in elevation, although they can be transplanted lower down the mountain and still survive. They may just not thrive like the wild ones in the mountains.
My husband is an avid ramp picker. He wanted to get the tradition started again this year, after a few years of missing out, he decided to talk to his uncles and get a hunting party together.
I probably shouldn’t divulge their secret ramp patch, so I’ll skip the directions and just say you have to drive a long way and walk a bit more to find it. It’s not for the faint of heart; especially not this year’s ramp excursion.
It is the middle of April, and ramp picking is supposed to be a sunny springtime deal. Only on this particular weekend…surprise! It snowed.
The weather forecast was daunting the night before the hunt; but my husband was bound and determined that it would be ok. So, he talked his brother and dad into coming with him. “It won’t be that bad,” was his exact words.
I was eagerly awaiting his text message that Saturday, but I knew they would be out of reception for a while. Finally, a picture of snow came through! I just laughed.
My husband, his dad, and brother, walked around for a while before locating the ramp patch, which was almost impossible because the snow was laying so heavily on the ground. He had to find a stick to knock the snow off the vegetation to actually find ramp greens.
After he successfully found the patch (I still don’t see how he found it in a blanket of snow!) they had to dig the ramps up by hand. They forgot the spades to dig with.
My husband said the spring that ran through the woods had warmer water in it than the snow. So they washed their hands off in warmer spring water, while the rest of their bodies were pretty cold.
Needless to say, they under-dressed for the occasion. Through slippery rocks and mud, they finally made it back to the vehicle, and had a sack full of ramps.
Later that day, he returned home, and I was so excited to see that bag of ramps. They were pretty costly ramps…after all he’d been through. So you better believe we cherished them!
I don’t know what is so magical about ramps. Maybe they’re special because they only appear once a year. Or the fact that they are wild and you have to work hard to find them.
Whatever it is, I’m serious when I say my mouth starts watering when we discuss ramps.
Now, everyone doesn’t think they’re that great. Some people hate them. Some people are indifferent. But my husband and I are pretty crazy about ramps. I can tell when he’s had them with his lunch at work because they are quite pungent. So I feel sorry for those that have not had ramps, because they have to smell them from those of us who have had them.
Of course, I had to make pickled ramps. I just poured boiling vinegar water over them, added sugar, salt, and whole peppercorns. They were ok, but not as good as a raw fresh ramp. Pickling just makes them last longer.
This year’s ramp adventure was a memorable one for my husband and his family. He loves a good story. Until next year’s ramp harvest, we’ll just remember how delicious they were and how hard he worked to bring them to me.