22 April 2010


Driving through eastern Tennessee yesterday afternoon I crossed the French Broad River, rounded a bend, and saw a pickup truck, a small table, and a large plastic sign with 'RAMPS' scrawled on it.  I pulled over and walked up to the little table, heaped with bunches of just-picked ramps, a southern harbinger of spring.
A man in his twenties got out of the truck and we started talking.  "Where did you pick them?" I asked, and he replied, "That's confidential," but when I told him I was just passing through he added, "I'll tell you that they were picked in Madison County," and wouldn't say anymore.  The day before he had picked over one hundred bunches and less than a dozen remained.  I asked the man his favorite way to prepare them and he said he ate them raw, almost every day. 
With their sweet leaves that remind me of toothsome garlic chives, ramps taste more like young garlic than leeks.  I kept them simple.  After removing their roots and cleaning them well, I put the bulbs in a frying pan with a generous nob of butter.   A few minutes later I added the green leaves, stirred them for a minute or so, and removed them from the heat.  A generous shake of salt and pepper and they were ready to eat. We gobbled them down with grilled tuna steaks and a pinot grigio to celebrate my sister's birthday, and ended the delightful meal with her just-made carrot cake - mmmmm! 

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