Last year the lovely and talented Jennifer Justus wrote an excellent article in the Tennessean about a ramp hunt led by the king of the smoker, Allan Benton. Since ramps are frequently cooked up alongside bacon to intermingle their wonderful garlicky funkiness with the smoke of the pork, Benton is certainly an appropriate guru for leading such an excursion.
Unfortunately, for some unknown reason, our local daily has not allocated the disk space to keep this entertaining account of the adventure online, but Justus fortunately republished her article on her personal blog A Nasty Bite. I hope she doesn't mind extra eyes looking at her slightly embarrassing story of almost running out of gas on the trip, because you should really read it. Besides, her fellow Nashvillians Thomas Williams and Chef Matt Bolus should be more chagrined, anyway, by her account of Benton picking through their hauls of what they thought was the mother lode of ramps. "Lily, lily, lily, ramp, lily, lily, lily..." Heh.
If you'd like to go ramp hunting on your own, North Carolina is the place to head. There are at least three major Ramp Celebrations coming up over the next month or so in the Tarheel state. Courtesy of the N.C. Division of Tourism, here's the skinny on the great search for Allium tricoccum:
March 31, April 29, May 6
Call them what you like — spring onions, wood leeks or wild garlic — you won’t need a dinner bell if you fry some up with potatoes or eggs, or cook a mess with freshly caught trout. Celebrate the harvest at one of these events in the North Carolina mountains: Rainbows & Ramps, March 31, Cherokee, 828-554-6471; 50th annual Ramp Festival, April 29, Robbinsville, grahamcountytravel.com; 78th annual Ramp Festival, May 6, Waynesville, 828-456-8691.
Gas up the car and get to huntin'!