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Post dinner brings out the ramp lovers

ROME TOWNSHIP — Jim Parker’s T-shirt said it all: “Got Ramps?’

For anyone at the Proctorville VFW Post 6878 on Saturday, the answer was a resounding “Yes.”

There being dished up were raw ramps, fried ramps, ramps a la hash browns and ramps with brown and white beans. And true connoisseurs lined up to try them all ways.

“I cook them with beans, potatoes, anything that’s loose I throw in,” said Parker of Huntington, W.Va., who discovered the ramp about three years ago. “The taste is like nothing else.”

And it was that taste that brought out the crowds for the VFW Post’s 20th Annual Ramp Dinner.

Members of the post went out to dig the wild onion, often described as a cross between a scallion and a garlic bud. Ramps are members of the onion family and are found in groups with light green leaves and a scallion-like bulb. Both the lower leaf stalks and green leaves, as well as the onion-part, are edible.

These ramp hunters came back with six tubs of the unique vegetable so much a staple of the 19th century Appalachian diet because of the minerals found in them. In fact, West Virginians’ love of the ramp inspired the nationally known Feast of Ramson at Richwood, now in its 72nd year.

“I understand they are serving ramps at some of the best restaurants in New York City for 30 or 50 dollars a serving,” according to Albert Baker, a member of the VFW Post. “You don’t raise them. They grow wild. We have people who hunt and they’ll call us to say where they are.”

All day Saturday members of the post and the auxiliary were busy frying up potatoes, heating up beans and filling dine in and take out orders.

But just for the day because the season of ramps is short-lived.

The onion comes into its own in April, but has to be harvested quickly and eaten just as fast. Or that unique ramp flavor will be lost.

As Baker says, “You dig ‘em on Friday and eat ‘em on Saturday.”