I’m always really homesick in April, but it’s usually one of my busiest months so I can rarely go home. And why do I specifically want to go home in April? One word: ramps. It’s the food of my people. In WV in April, community ramp dinners happen throughout the central part of the state. If you know where ramps are growing wild, you keep your mouth shut and go dig them. Otherwise you buy them in paper grocery bags on the side of the road. They grow in VA and NC, but only in the highest elevations. I’ve got a tiny patch growing down by the creek. It takes about 5 years before they spread, so I keep planting but not harvesting in hopes that I’ll have enough for a meal sometime in my old age.
This April, for the first time, my mom came to visit me at the cabin. She retired in December and now has free time to travel. For my birthday she brought the thing I wanted most. Eating ramps in April is sort of like Thanksgiving; there are traditions. For me it’s important to have ramps fried with potatoes, pinto beans, and corn pone served with sassafras tea. Mom brought a big bag to cook and a smaller bag to plant. We sat on the porch swing and cleaned them before starting our feast. It was heaven. And then we had leftovers the next day.
Not everybody in WV likes them. Most people in NC don’t know what they are. When I was in grade school some of the boys would eat them raw before coming to school, knowing that the teacher would send them home. They make you smell that bad. But if you cook them you’re less offensive. Regardless, if I could eat them every day of the season, I would. I would say to my NC friends, “this is what a WV girl smells like in April.”