Remember how back in October, shortly after relocating to the mountains of West Virginia, I wrote this post on the striking similarities between the Austrian and Appalachian cultures? And maybe you remember how in that post I mentioned a fascination with ramps, or Bärlauch? Well, ramp season is here.
In fact, I’m actually a little late. Ramp season has been here for a few weeks and is coming to a close. There are fewer and fewer cars on the side of the road with handwritten signs advertising fresh ramps for sale. My town’s ramp festival has passed. No one has mentioned digging ramps to me in a few days.
Fresh ramps are one of the signs that spring is truly here and the long, harsh winter is over. That might be why everyone gets excited. Or because of their flavor, something between an onion and garlic. Or maybe because since they grow wild throughout the state, they cost nothing to procure and cook up.
Whatever the reason, West Virginians sure love their ramps.
Some friends and I felt the need to partake of the tradition, and headed out to pick ramps. I had done so in Austria, biking through the countryside with my roommate to find the perfect spot. Our West Virginia ramp-picking trip was much less of an ordeal: a friend’s boss has ramps growing wild on her property. We each picked our fair share of ramps and made plans to have our own ramp dinner (a local tradition).
Between the three of us, we churned out four different dishes, with different levels of rampyness. The most pungent was probably the pesto, which we made without any sort of recipe. We just combined coarsely chopped ramps (bulb, stem, and leaf) with olive oil, parmesan cheese, walnuts, and a little fresh basil, then blended like crazy, adding more of this or that to taste.
The potatoes were similarly done without a recipe, simply halving or quartering new potatoes and roasting them with olive oil, coarsely chopped ramp greens, salt, and pepper until fork tender. They had the least amount of ramp flavor, but had we wanted to we could’ve easily ramped up the flavor (see what I did there?) with more ramps.
The ramp and lemon risotto recipe came from The Kitchn. The lemon flavor was almost more prominent than the ramp flavor, but the ramps were definitely there. We followed the recipe pretty closely, simply substituting arborio rice for the carnaroli rice called for in the recipe. We used a sauvignon blanc as our wine, since that’s what Google told me to use when I tried to figure out what the best type of wine to use in cooking risotto was.
Lastly: the feta-stuffed ramp and corn muffins. This was not a combination I would’ve thought of on my own. I probably wouldn’t have even thought to put ramps into muffins on my own. I’m much more a fan of sweet muffins than savory. But once my friend showed me this recipe, it sounded intriguing. Feta cheese, ramps, cornmeal, all in one? And it was a success. I even got to practice my German with this recipe, since that’s the language it was originally published in. (But for others, there is a translator in the sidebar.)
In the end, we were all stuffed and slightly concerned about the way our breath smelled. We deemed our dinner a success, if not totally authentic in terms of our interpretation. We also decided that we had probably had enough ramps to last us a year…which is good, since I don’t think you can get them out of season.