Ramps Were More Than Just A Strong Onion
Ramps, belonging to the allium family, are a distinctive member of North American cuisine and are often referred to as our native leeks. These wild plants are renowned for their pungent aroma and flavor, which can be likened to “industrial strength onions” due to their remarkable richness in sulphide compounds. In the Appalachian tradition, ramps were celebrated not just for their robust flavor but also for their potential health benefits. It was a common belief that after a long winter of consuming preserved foods like dried vegetables and salted meat, a “spring cleaning” for the body was needed.
To achieve this, people turned to remedies like sulfur and molasses. However, for a more palatable and enjoyable alternative, they would indulge in a hearty meal of “ramps.” A “mess o’ ramps,” as it’s affectionately known, became a traditional Appalachian springtime dish, heralding the arrival of a new season and a return to fresh, locally foraged foods. The strong flavors and vibrant greenery of ramps symbolized the revitalization of both the body and spirit after the hardships of winter.