Ramp Feed

Ramp season is in full swing here in the Mountain State, and that means that families up every hill and holler are fixin up a mess of ramps, the somewhat official spring tonic of West Virginia.  Everyone has their favorite ramp recipes but sometimes simple is best.  My husband’s favorite way to eat ramps was raw on a peanut butter sandwich. For dinner this evening I had raw ramps with hummus, goat cheese and pita chips.  Many people pickle ramps, dry ramps; we add them to potato salad, baked beans, just about any way you would use onions, leeks or garlic.  Some people say they are an acquired taste, but we sure enjoy them. 

Ramp feeds are being held at just about every church, fire hall and community building.  One of the largest, the Feast of the Ransom in Richwood is being held today, but our favorite is the annual ramp dinner being held tomorrow beginning at noon at the Aurora Fire Hall.  Ham, beans, fried potatoes with and without ramps, raw ramps, ramp salad, stewed ramps, corn bread, ramp muffins, desserts and beverages are on the menu.  So if you are in the area, come on out Sunday and support the Volunteer Fire Department.  If you are not, check out G and N Ramp Farm where you can order ramps, ramp seeds, ramp bulbs and Glen’s great book “Having Your Ramps and Eating Them Too”.

WV Small Farm Conference, Day 2

Courtesy of G & N Ramp Farm

We started day two of the conference with Forest Non-Timber; it began with a West Virginia legend, Glen Facemire,   He and his wife, Noreen, run G & N Ramp Farm in Richwood, home of the Feast of the Ransom.  Industrial/residential development and over-harvesting are putting our beloved ramp in some danger, so here is some of Glenn’s advice:
— better to harvest and plant than let the ramps go to seed; they have a better chance of survival
— they like to be planted near rocks
— dig the big clumps and leave the twos, threes and singles
Glen is a great speaker and very informative.  We could probably do an entire post on just his class, but instead we will direct you to his book ‘Having Your Ramps and Eating Them Too’.  If you can’t dig your own, or buy roadside ramps, you can buy them from Glen.
Paul Goland of Hardscrabble Enterprises was next up in the Forest Non-Timber class and gave a very educational talk and demonstration on Shitake Mushrooms.  Paul is in his 80’s and is a master at what he does.  Just two of his many pieces of advice – shade and temperature change are essential, and if you are having slug problems sprinkle some agricultural salt around the base of your logs. Paul does not have a web-site so if you would like contact information just let us know.
Next up, Beekeeping with Paul Poling, West Virginia’s State Apiary Specialist, presenting all the steps necessary to get started.  It was very informative, as we took well over a dozen small pages of notes.

Liberty Hill Farm’s RoBeth Holstein Herd courtesy of their website


The lunch time speaker was Beth Kennett from Libert Hill Farm in Vermont.  Beth is an energetic and dynamic speaker, and shared her family’s inspirational story of running a Dairy Farm with a Bed and Breakfast.  She ended her talk with a story about a young mother, her son and farmer super heroes.  Suffice it to say that the Shepherdess/s and most of the room had tears in their eyes by the time she was done. 
It is difficult to believe, but the class following lunch featured another great speaker, Mimi Hernandez.  Mimi is the Outreach Coordinator for the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies, and presented Medicinal Plants from the Farm and Forest Floor.  She covered everything from making Chickweed Pesto to preparing a spit poultice from Plantain, the herbal bandaid.  Mimi is traveling the state presenting her Mountain Roots workshops.  It would be well worth the effort to hear her speak.
We rounded out the day with Brad Smith’s Small Ruminant Management.  He spoke about efficient and sustainable sheep and goat production.  We take every opportunity we can to attend anything about small ruminants, and always walk away with new insight, some tidbit of information or that feeling of why didn’t we think of that before.  And… well,…you know…we just love to talk about sheep.
I almost ended without mentioning The Great West Virginia Pop-Off! and the Local Food Celebration & Banquet.  We will save that for another day, another post devoted just to the food because that was the theme of the conference – “It’s all about the food!”

A Long Explore

A beautiful, very early Sunday morning… let’s join Raven on a long explore.

This little spring-fed brook is one of our favorite secret places.

It is particularly lovely in the early morning sunlight.

Our little, shallow spring-fed brook is lined with moss covered stones.

Ok, this is our real destination, we were really coming to check on the Ramp (Allium tricoccum Aiton) patch! Here in the West Virginia hills, spring is Ramp season. Since they are one of the first plants to emerge in the spring, they are traditionally eaten as the first greens of the season. It is believed that Native Americans taught settlers to eat this wild leek as a spring tonic. Ramps are high in vitamins C and A, helpful minerals and reduce cholestrol, so the folk medicine reputation is well deserved. They are very strong and spicy so they also do a good job of keeping the ‘Non-Ramp Eaters’ at a distance.

Even our distinguished United States Senator, the honorable Robert C. Byrd, sings the
praises of the Mighty Ramp
In West Virginia, the emergence of the Ramp, after our long winters, is certainly a cause for celebration. You can visit a Ramp Farm, and you can even buy Ramp Wine. We hold numerous Ramp Festivals and in every hill and holler you will find churches and volunteer fire departments holding Ramp Feeds. As a matter of fact, come join us at the Aurora Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Ramp Dinner on Sunday, April 26th, and celebrate spring in the West Virginia mountains!
Edited to add:
Ramp dinner noon-4 p.m. April 26th at the Aurora Fire Dept. Includes ham, fried potatoes, (with or without ramps), soup beans, cooked ramps, raw ramps, ramp salad, corn muffins (with or without ramps, desserts and drinks. Cost $8 per person.