Celebrate the Season at the Spring Ramp Festival
By: Mary Miller
Ramps. Not the concrete sections of road that you drive on to exit the highway. I’m talking about those pungent scallion-like first signs of spring that drive certain culinarians here in the Northeast completely bonkers. The 21st Annual Mason Dixon Ramp Festival in Mt. Morris, PA, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh, will be held on April 16 and 17 this year, so if you don’t know about ramps, and even if you do, consider taking the short drive down to the border of PA and WV during these two days to check it out.
Before last spring, I had never tasted a ramp. Or even seen one in person. They were a great mystery to me. The bulb of the ramp resembles a scallion, but the leaves are larger and floppier, a bit like rabbit ears. They can be used like scallions and leeks. According to the gentleman selling the fresh ramps at the festival last year, there are two types – ones with white stems and ones with purple stems. The purple- stemmed ramps have a stronger odor. They’re like stinky scallions, and are really pretty good. I used mine in omelets, salads and mashed potatoes.
The Ramp Festival offered all sorts of ramp-filled goodies – home fries with ramps, sausage with ramps, ramp soup, deep-fried ramps. There was a lot to choose from. The longest line was for the deep fried ramps and they looked good, but just so my stomach and I could have a pleasant ride back to the Burgh, I opted for the ramp burger instead. Delicious.
There were ramp items to take home too, like honey mustard with ramps and whiskey, ramp jelly and a beautifully wrapped Buerre de Ramps. This butter, mixed with lemon zest, chopped ramps and salt, was rolled into small logs, making perfect circular slices when cut. It was beautiful and quite tasty.
I haven’t seen ramps in the markets here, so if you want to try them, they can be ordered (but do it soon… it’s a short season) through Earthy Delights at earthy.com or you can visit the Mason Dixon ramp festival. Or do both.
Mary Miller is a registered dietitian and food writer. Her company, The Fork and The Road, take guests on culinary adventures throughout Western Pennsylvania. Check it out at www.theforkandtheroad.com