Ramps, a.k.a. wild onion, wild garlic or ramson, are the new darling of the culinary world. These smallish, springtime leeks are native to our region and, not surprisingly, were foraged and incorporated into down-home dishes around here long before any chef in Brooklyn made them into a garni.
Some local CSAs offer ramps, and you can splurge for them at Whole Foods ($15/pound). But to really get your ramp on, it's worth the drive to the annual Mason-Dixon Ramp Festival, in Mount Morris, Greene County.
Held in a ridge-top park, the festival offers musical entertainment, country crafts and ramps galore. Sample ramps that have been pickled, beer-batter-fried or dipped in chocolate. Fill your belly with ramp and potato soup, a ramp burger or the Mason-Dixon Dog, topped with chili, coleslaw, kraut and raw ramps ("a whole meal for a buck, with a hot dog right in the middle of it"). And yes, there is ramp hard-tack candy and ramp wine.
Take home jars of ramp jelly, some ramp fudge, recipe cards from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank (including one for a pineapple-ramp salsa) and a T-shirt that reads "Ramps: God's Gift to the Appalachians."
Some folks don't care for eating ramps because their pungent garlicky-onion-ness can stick to you. Not a problem here: "You don't want to go home smelling like you haven't been," the MC called out, "so eat some ramps."
The ramp festival is held every April.