Ramp dinners

By Elizabeth Hamel
This item appears on page 23 of the March 2022 issue.

Living in southwestern Pennsylvania, my husband and I go to ramp feeds and festivals, mostly in West Virginia and usually in April.

Ramps are wild leeks. They are one of the first edible plants to ripen in the Appalachian forests in the spring. Beginning in April and continuing through May, scores of community ramp dinners and festivals are held. Many are small affairs, but others feed more than 1,000 people a day. Traditionally, the dinners are fund raisers for churches, libraries and fire departments. Often, there are also flea markets.

We first learned about ramp festivals from the Pittsburgh City Paper (www.pghcitypaper.com), a local weekly alternative newspaper, about 10 years ago. The West Virginia Explorer (304/575-7390, email dsibray@gmail.com, wvexplorer.com) also has information on ramp dinners.

Ramp fare ranges from traditional to gourmet. Dinner usually includes ramps plus ham, bacon, fried potatoes, corn bread, beans, dessert and a drink. The ramps are cooked in bacon grease, and strips of crisp bacon are served as part of the dinner.

Our favorite ramp festival, and probably the oldest, is Feast of the Ramson in Richwood, West Virginia (for info, contact the Richwood Area Chamber of Commerce; 304/846-6790, rwdchamber@frontier.com), which we last attended in May 2021. COVID did not seem to have any effect on the festival; the food was served inside as usual and the craft market was outside as usual.

We have also been to the Mason-Dixon Historical Park’s annual Ramp Dinner in Core, West Virginia; the Camp Caesar Ramp Dinner in Cowen, West Virginia, and the Shortline Ramp Festival in Pine Grove, West Virginia. All are good, but the Feast of the Ramson is the biggest and the granddaddy of them all.

Monroeville, PA