The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 22, 2012

Richwood hosts Feast of the Ramson

RICHWOOD — Rain did not deter an ever replenishing line of hungry travelers and locals looking to fill their bellies with a true mountain meal at the 74th annual Feast of the Ramson.

Inside Richwood High School’s kitchen, Jay Comstock and John Green manned the skillet, making sure the nearly 2,000 pounds of ramps were seasoned with bacon grease and a dash of salt and pepper.

Comstock said he has been cooking ramps for the festival about 20 years.

He said each year the festival has both people looking to try ramps for the first time and people drawn back by the ramp’s pungent aroma year after year.

Green said ramps taste like a cross between a sweet onion and kale and they “smell like heck.”

“Most locals grow up eating them like greens,” he said.

Comstock said ramps should not be mixed with dates or eaten in the salad.

 “You eat them with corn bread, bacon, ham and brown beans — any other way is sacrilege,” he said, laughing.

Elaine McClung said she had never eaten a ramp before she was married, but her husband is from Hancock County and grew up on them.

“Our son was really wanting some ramps, so we decided to make the trip down,” she said.

The McClungs came from Greenbrier County to enjoy the meal.

Stanley Slayton, a West Virginia native, made the trek from Florida to enjoy a taste from his childhood.

“You know, if you eat ramps, you’ll live to be 100,” he said.

Dr. Hassan Amjad, founder of Oak Hill’s Summertime Appalachian Tea Festival, was doing research for his forthcoming book, “Flowers of Cranberry Glades.”

Amjad, a naturalist with a special interest in folk medicine and local plants, held the publication of his book just so he could come to Richwood’s ramp festival, he said.

“If you have a healthy lifestyle, ramps are certainly a good addition, but it would be interesting to do more research, and find out more about their health benefits, he said.

Glen Facemire, owner of Ramp Farm Specialties, was set up at the Feast of the Ramson to get the public ramped up.

“Our passion is for everyone to have their own little ramp patch. I am the Johnny Appleseed of ramps,” he said.

Facemire and his wife sell ramps through the mail and help people across the United States find the perfect spot to cultivate their own ramps.

He said that as a child, ramps were a staple of his family’s food. Often they would cold-pack can them right by the creek to save for winter, he explained.

Today ramps are a delicacy and are becoming more and more desired by chefs in New York City and England.

“There are native patches that can’t stand but so much harvesting. And there is logging and strip mining taking away acres of potential ramps ... so  we are seeing a decline. But we’d like to see everyone have their own little ramp patch,” he said.

When asked how long he had been eating ramps, he said, “You know, I asked my dad when I was real young how long I had been eating them. He said, ‘Son, I have never told you, but I found you in a ramp patch.’”

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com

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