by Barbara Beury McCallum
Ramps. People who have tried them usually love or hate the stinky little root. Often eaten as an early spring tonic, the smelly ramp raises the inevitable question: Are the ramp's health benefits and taste sufficient to justify living with the odor? Or, are ramps worth the hype?
The late great West Virginia writer Jim Comstock had this to say about the ramp: "Don't let the horror stories about ramp odor scare you off . . . .a ramp is just an onion that hasn't been civilized or had the fear of the Lord driven into it; it's Nature's best evidence that He who made the lamb also made the tiger."
For you fastidious characters who have written the ramp off in the name of hygiene, think again. As with many things, sometimes the underdog can become a greatest hit. Popular among mountain folk everywhere for centuries, now the lowly ramp has gone prime time.
It's been featured in recipes on NPR's The Splendid Table; television's Iron Chef and Top Chef, and many gourmet magazines. Now found in delicacies like Tuna Steaks Grilled with Ramps and Ramp Pesto, if you haven't had the nerve to try them yet, don't put it off. Whether served in fancy fare or traditional, the lowdown is this: Ramps are worth the hype. What are you waiting for?
Cream of Patato/Ramp Soup
5 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced
5-6 ramps; bulbs ans stems chopped fine
dash of pepper
dash of salt
4 Tablespoons butter
2-3 cups milk (depending on how thick you like your soup)
Put potatoes and rams in stockpot and barely cover with water. Stir in salt and pepper and cook covered until tender. Mash in liquid. Add butter and milk, stirring until mixture is well blended and hot. Serve immediately.