Wild ramps fresh from the earth
The word hunting may not be appropriate here as it connotes rifles or arrows or at the very least, some sense of participation on the side of the hunted...BUT...we went out hunting ramps this past week. Ramps are the wild allium (think hyper-garlic) that grows throughout the eastern United States during a brief time in early Spring. We get them in the North Georgia mountains in early to mid-April before they trees fully leaf out. Ramps have a rich history in Appalachia and were even thought to ward off evil spirits and vampires (what's with people and vampires?). Up here they eat them pickled and fried, but most commonly cooked with eggs or "taters" or both. Unfortunately, many of the locals only eat the bulbs of the ramp and discard the greens. The greens are quite possibly my favorite part as they taste like garlic-kissed spinach and can be used to add that garlic kick to more subtle dishes. The bulbs will let you know in a hurry that they're there, while the greens just sneak that distinct flavor in.
Once you find a patch of ramps (or "mess o'ramps"), it's a sight to behold. You can walk in the mountains for hours and not see a single ramp and then come across an area that's nearly infested with them. If the breeze is right, you can actually smell them before you see them. Some of you may remember our ramp adventure from last year, but this one was different because it was in a new location for us and it involved the addition of horses. Even though I was raised in horse country, this was my first time on a horse. And you think you'd practice the whole equine thing on flat ground, but I had to hop on and give it a go on a mountain. Luckily, my designated horse Sunny (or Sonny...he didn't spell his name for me) was gentle and patient and semi-obedient. I don't know how Sunny felt at the end of the day, but I'm STILL sore from the experience. And getting camera equipment up and down those mountains was less than a picnic too. But I think it'll make for a great segment on the show.
Sunny the horse - my ramp taxi
I'd heard about ramps my whole life but was only inducted to the ramp culture last year. I must say I look forward to them now and even my young son Finn gets excited about the possibility of ramps and eggs. We saw ramps for sale in a farmer's market last year during our visit to Germany. They're called Bärlauch in German, which means "Bear's Leek", presumably because bears have good taste and enjoy them just as much as we do. If nothing else, ramps give you an excuse to get up in the mountains and enjoy a good walk. We've met ramp hunters that will admit that they're really not big fans of eating them but they go year after year with their friends just for the sheer pleasure of getting outside and doing something. Those are the kind of people I need to hook up with so I can graciously take the spoils of their foraging.
Huitt in a mess of ramps
Next we're asparagus hunting, but it shouldn't involve quite as much vigorous exercise.