With spring beginning in March, that means one thing to many West Virginians.
“Springtime is here when the ramps come up. It’s just tradition. When the ramps come up, springtime is here in West Virginia,” says Dan Cooley, a Service Forester in the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
Average temperatures and precipitation allow the plant, which tastes like a garlic and onion hybrid, to pop up toward the end of March.
But cooler weather could put their growth on the back burner.
“Let’s say you have a really cold March, with snow and cold temperatures, they will come up later,” explains Cooley.
But once they do, you know summer is on its way.
The strong odor in the forests and green leaves sticking out of the ground foreshadow nicer and warmer weather.
As the crop, native to West Virginia and Appalachia gets more popular and overdug by sellers and scavengers, there are fewer ramps to go around.
And with ramps becoming more sparse by the year, a little bit of this garlic-onion cross can go a long way.
Those rules especially are true for cooking.
From the kitchen table to high-end restaurants, many folks love a ramp in their meal, because it starts the transition from hearty winter food to lighter fare toward the spring and summer.
The ramp’s versatile taste allows for the vegetable to be used in all kinds of cuisine.
“Onions and garlic are all in southeast Asian food, all food through Europe, South America, North America,” says Cody Thrasher, owner and chef of Cody’s in Bridgeport.
Thrasher says that cooking and expanding our palate connects all of the world to our little slice of Almost Heaven.