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A ramp (wild leek) trip!

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Hi all.

My sister and I are from the Montreal, Québec area, both retired and in our 60's.

We love eating ramps (also known in the US as "wild leeks"; here in Quebec, they're known in French as "ail des bois". Scientifically, they're called Allium Tricoccum).

As far back as we can remember, our family has enjoyed foraging for and eating ramps, in season. We'd have these huge picnics, maybe 20-30 people, on Mother's Day, at one of my uncles' brother's farm where we ate smoked meat sandwiches and ramps.

So my sister and I, having probably too much time on our hands for our own good, decided to make a trip to the US specifically to eat ramps.

We will be travelling from April 24 to May 4 and have rented a motorhome for that purpose.

At this stage, our itinerary would have two legs: from Montreal, down the western part of NY (through Syracuse) and PA (through Pittsburgh) states to West Virginia (maybe as far south as Richwood, WV); this leg would take 3-5 days. Then, for the second leg, cutting across through Albany, NY, we'd take maybe 3 days to go from Rutland, VT back to Montreal.

(By the way, this is the reason I'm posting this message in both the "Pennsylvania" discussion and the "Northern New England" discussion).

Our objectives for the trip are:

1- Eat ramps, eat ramps, eat ramps.
2- If possible, do some foraging (for ramps) ourselves.
3- We both love food and would like to sample local specialties along our route.
4- Maybe meet other ramp maniacs in person.
5- Visit points of interest along our route.

Our questions:

Do we really have to go as far south as Richwood, WV to find plentiful ramps?

I suspect that ramps are fairly abundant in western NY and western PA. If that's the case, how realistic is it to think that we could forage for ourselves? I mean: given a promising area, is it sufficient to ask permission of the owner of the land? Are such permissions usually granted? Is foraging on public lands (parks?) allowed?

Finally, we welcome all your suggestions regarding must-eat foods (NY-style cheese cake, shoo-fly pie and Cabot extra sharp cheddar are already on the list).

Of course, if fellow CHers were to point out specific areas for ramps, points of interest, etc., we'd be very grateful.

Thanks for your attention!

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  1. You don't have to go all the way to Richmond. Here's a festival that's just South of Pittsburgh at the end of April. There are a lot of ramp festival's in SW Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia in April.

    http://www.masondixonpark.net/ramp.html

    http://burghfeeding.blogspot.com/

    2 Replies
    1. re: Burghfeeder

      I wonder if the ridiculously early Spring is going to affect ramp season. Several Pittsburgh restaurants already have them on the menu and I don't recall that happening in March since I've been living here.

      1. re: Panini Guy

        Very good point, Panini Guy. Ramps are just starting to poke their heads through the ground here. That's very, very early for us. There's no snow cover left; mind you, we had several days of summer weather about a week ago. I'd say we're at least one week early if not more.

    2. If you get that far south, be careful driving through Summersville, WV. It's notorious for speed traps.

      If you want a snack to knaw on as you travel, Herb Britner's Smoke House and Radiator Shop is off of I-79 just north of Pittsburgh. You can grab a piece of smoked Kolbassi and smoked cheese and just chunk away on them as you travel.
      http://www.herbbrittners.biz/contact.php

      1 Reply
      1. re: yayadave

        Thanks for the heads up, yayadave. I've added Herb Britner's to our map. (Our paternal grandparents were Polish and we used to call it "kobassa"; but I've never had the smoked one. We'll certainly stop by there).

      2. The last couple years I have seen Ramps really sprouting up at a lot more local western pa Restaurants. Unforntualty it is very hard to narrow down a when and where.... Good Luck with this trip, I would really like to get updates every so often or atleast a nice recap...

        I remember as a little kid , eating ramps and my parents FREAKED OUT , thinkign I picked up something toxic. The Dr. must of been into food and said, "we'll the are only toxic if my wife cooks them for dinner" HHAHAH

        Love hearing that story and I live about 35 min outside of the Pittsburgh, so they are all around

        2 Replies
        1. re: Augie6

          Hi Augie.

          Thanks for the comments (and the reminiscence). Ramps are certainly not toxic; purgative, yes; but not toxic. Even in large quantities!

          For sure, we'll keep the board up to date on our trip, etc.

          In the meantime, here's a picture taken yesterday of one of our "plantations". The season is very, very early!

           
          1. re: M_ichel

            We have also had some very very warm weather week or so ago , that cause a lot of bloomage.

            Thought you might want to also post under the gardening board... As those people might know more about the "ramp" scene.. seems most on this PA sub board are more restuarant / grocery oriented.

        2. Here is another ramp festival at Deep Creek Lake on April 28th. http://blogdeepcreek.com/ (you'll need to page down to near the bottom). Deep Creek is a beautiful area about 40 minutes East of Morgantown WV. and would be a nice stop on your trip.

          http://burghfeeding.blogspot.com/

          1 Reply
          1. re: Burghfeeder

            Hi, Burghfeeder!

            Thanks for the info, but we're planning on attending the Mason-Dixon Ramp Festival on that date...

            But our plans are very flexible... who knows?

            [Edit: Oooops! I see that YOU had already mentioned that festival in an earlier post!!! Great minds...]

          2. Change of plans!

            We canceled the reservation for the motorhome! Reason? Not enough campgrounds open in late April along our route! We would have had to stay at Wal•Marts... My sister was really not looking forward to this...

            So, it'll be hotels for us. First stop: Syracuse, NY. Then, Bradford, PA (site of the annual Stinkfest). We'll be too early for this year's Stinkfest, but I figure that where there's a stinkfest, there's bound to be stinking ramps!!!

            2 Replies
            1. re: M_ichel

              If you haven't left Bradford yet, be sure to stop by the Zippo plant.
              You will also be very close to Elk country ,and should be able to see Elk (if that is of interest to you).
              There is a really great restaurant not that far from Bradford ,also a B&B I think, but the name escapes me.

              1. re: Markcron

                Thanks for the tip, Markcron, but we're now in Troy, NY.

                We're supposed to go to Rutland today, where I was sure to find ramps. However, a contact I had there tells me they won't have any for another week or so, because they pick the ramps "at a higher elevation".

                I think we may head a bit further South and look for ramps there.

                Don't have much time to keep the board posted as to where we're going and I will put in more details when we get home this weekend. Suffice it to say that so far we've eaten ramps in Bradford, PA, at the Mason-Dixon Ramp Festival and in Elkins, WV. I hope we won't be disappointed by Vermont.