Monday, May 10, 2010

Where the wild things are ...

I was cruising thru a few food-related blogs this morning (probably because I was wishing I had something interesting to eat for breakfast) and came upon a recipe for ramps. Ramps! I forgot all about the ramps! Which means I also forgot all about the fiddleheads. I wonder if it's too late? I'll have to ask someone who knows better than I.

My first (actually, my only) experience with wild ramps came years ago. I had a friend, Cathy, who originally hailed from West Virginia. We were talking with an elderly couple at church one day, and for the life of me I don't know how, but we got on the subject of foraging for wild foods. I'm guessing it had something to do with where these people came from. The older folks had struggled through the worst of times, and probably had to make do with a pot of boiled weeds for supper more often than we can guess. Anyway ... my friend and this ol' fella decided we needed to plan an outing, on the hunt for wild ramps. He was certain they were plentiful in the woodsy area behind his place. So one fine day, we drove (a very long way) to his place, and pranced about the woods digging what looked to me like something related to lilies of the valley. The idea was to gather tons of these things because, I was told, one you cook them down, they don't amount to much. So we trounced about howling "... country ro-o-o-o-oads ... take me home ... to a place ... where we be-looooong ... West Virginia ... mountain Mama ..." until we were sick of it.

The day turned out rather warmish, and by the time I got mine home inside a plastic bag in the car, it became apparent this was not something that would be relished by my family. For my guys, they had all the appeal of boiled spinach with the added bonus of the aroma of way-too-much-garlic. I think I did cook what still looked half-way decent for myself, and thought, "Ummm ... I'm not getting it. It must be a cultural thing." (or more realistically, "Ghack! This is nasty!") Last I heard, Cathy was training wild things of another sort at some facility in Florida -- lions and tigers and such. But that was years ago ... wonder what has become of Cathy now?

Now ... about the fiddleheads. Tricky things, these. Like the ramps, you have to know where to look, when to look, and be certain you know what you're looking at before you can harvest them. I've seen them offered preserved in little tins in gourmet/specialty shops -- very pricey. And I've had them prepared by a local gal who learned about them from her family as a child. What is it about that sort of thing that intrigues me so? I automatically want to know these little "secrets" when I hear about them. Maybe I'm related to Euell Gibbons? Oh ... and at least the fiddleheads are truly tasty, unlike those ramps.

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