The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

April 21, 2013

Richwood throws a smelly but savory feast

RICHWOOD — Normally, the little Nicholas County town of Richwood has about 2,500 residents, but each year in April the population swells to nearly double as more than 2,000 ramp lovers descend on the community eager for a taste of their favorite fare.

“The ramp festival is what we’re all about,” explained Beth Donaldson, 58, of Richwood. “We’re the oldest ramp feed in West Virginia. That’s certainly one of our most cherished claims to fame. We routinely attract visitors from all over the nation.”

It’s a fact that one of the monikers of the town is “The Ramp Capital of the World,” according to Donaldson. “We believe that we have one of the longest-running festivals — and certainly some of the best ramp cuisine in the country.”

The Richwood Feast of the Ransom began in the 1930s, according to Raymond Chapman, 76, of Richwood. The veteran ramp enthusiast has been instrumental in helping to carry on the community’s traditions for decades.

“We are proud of our heritage, and we all work together to make our ramp fest one of the state’s most popular attractions,” Chapman said, adding: “The ramps grown around Richwood seem to taste better than those grown anywhere else.”

The annual banquet is one of hundreds of small-town fairs and ceremonial meals held each spring throughout Appalachia, but the Nicholas County get-together enjoys the distinction of being heralded as “the granddaddy of all ramp gatherings.”

In this country town, the person who doesn’t eat ramps is the one who smells a little funny — definitely an outsider.

As for the ramp itself, it is sometimes labeled a wild leek, a kind of wild onion native to North America. Though the bulb resembles that of a scallion, the beautiful, flat, broad leaves set it apart.

According to John Mariani, author of “The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink,” the word ramp comes from “rams” or “ramson,” an Elizabethan dialect rendering of the wild garlic. The word was first mentioned in English print in the 1530s, but was used earlier by English immigrants of the southern Appalachian Mountains.

When spring arrives in the hills of West Virginia, it’s definitely time to “ramp up” with the famous odiferous member of the lily family, an oniony treat ideally suited for fests and dinners.

And whether you like them boiled, raw or fried in bacon grease, the ramps provide a springtime tonic that’s guaranteed to stimulate your heart and thin your blood, according to Donaldson, who holds the victuals are healthy and safe for consumption, no matter how they’re prepared in the kitchen. “Ramps keep you young,” she said. “They’re a good spring tonic.”

Throughout Appalachia, country chefs usually serve ramps (steamed or fried) with scrambled eggs, brown beans, fried potatoes, cornbread and ham or bacon.

Saturday’s affair marked the 75th annual Richwood Ramp Festival. Preparations for the ramp feed, as it is sometimes affectionately called, began about a week ago with workers cleaning and chilling nearly half a ton of the pungent plants.

The value of the wild onions cannot be overestimated, according to Betty Tyler, 83, of Richwood. “Some people on their death bed still crave a mess of ramps, one last meal,” explained the Tyler family matriarch. “People return to the festival year after year, not only for the ramps but also for the fellowship.”

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • pasiley Watery delight

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Americans continue to be plagued by debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills. 

    July 30, 2014

  • twvcheck Theatre West Virginia gives back to hospice

    Theatre West Virginia, even with its shortened season this year, has found a way to give back to the community. 

    Mike Cavendish, a past board president at TWV, presented Hospice of Southern West Virginia with a check Thursday for over $1,000. 

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Former Summers County commissioner indicted

    The Summers County grand jury handed up indictments against 17 individuals this month, including one against a former county commissioner. 

    July 30, 2014

  • Weaker prices widen second quarter losses for Arch Coal

     Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer’s latest earnings surpass analysts’ expectations.

    July 30, 2014

  • State DHHR workers to picket over large caseloads

    West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources employees are picketing outside the agency's Fayette County office to raise awareness over what they call large, unmanageable caseloads.

    July 29, 2014

  • Arch Coal posts bigger 2Q loss

    Arch Coal Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter loss widened partly because of nagging rail disruptions and weaker prices for coal used in making steel, though cost controls helped the coal producer's latest earnings surpass analysts' expectations.

     

    July 29, 2014

  • Tunnel.jpg Tunnel traffic to be restricted to one lane for repairs

    Highway crews are planning to do additional repairs Tuesday night and Wednesday night inside of the East River Mountain. As a result, traffic inside of the tunnel will be limited to one lane in both directions, according to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Earl.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meth lab bust nets two Raleigh residents

    An anonymous phone call about two children in danger led authorities to a meth lab bust and the arrests of two Raleigh County residents Monday night.

    July 29, 2014

  • Congress closes in on benefits for veterans

    On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.

    July 29, 2014