I had my first taste of ramps in Cleveland West Virginia in 2006. My alternator had died on my car my way to a remote campground. There wasn’t a place to pull over and find parts. I was just hoping to get there and fix it myself. My car stopped a half mile from the campground entrance in what I would later find to be Cleveland WV (funny since I left Cleveland OH earlier that day).
There were three homes within walking distance. One looked like a hunting cabin up on the hill. The other was picture‐perfect rural Appalachia with a car on bricks in the front yard and half of the house on the front porch. The third was a quaint white cottage in the middle of the greenest field I ever saw with small stream running through the front yard and a white picket fence.
In my mind, it looked was out of place. So I went to the picture‐perfect Appalachian estate – the car in the front yard, furniture on the porch, etc – and no one was home. I decided that the hunting cabin was a bad idea. So I went to the quaint white cottage.
I made the right choice. They had a phone, they were kind and helpful, and they knew the community. After getting a new alternator, they suggested that my camping group attend the “Hacker Valley Ramp Festival” the next day.
I was grateful for their help, so we attended. I had no idea what ramps even were. The old couple explained that they were wild onions that are harvested in the spring. Rural communities in Appalachia harvest them and prepare ramp dinners as fundraisers. The ramp dinner I went to benefited Webster County’s only school. Everyone in the county must have been there. The dinner was $10 per person, and you received a lot of food. The “mess of ramps” was boiled ramps finished off in bacon grease and bacon bits with some vinegar in a skillet. There was a pickled egg, potato salad, thick cut bacon slices, and cornbread. It was delicious and I have enjoyed eating ramps when I can get my hands on them ever since.
If you happen to know where to find a patch of ramps in the wild make sure to harvest them
so they come back next year.