Mountain trout and wild ramps take center stage at the annual Rainbow and Ramps festival on Sat., March 31, at 10am at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds. Hosted by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the public is invited to celebrate a time-honored Cherokee tradition that rejoices in spring’s arrival and with it, the season’s first green – the ramp.
A unique cultural experience, the one-day festival serves up a delicious feast of succulent smoked trout, fried potatoes, corn bread and of course ramps! Veterans of the armed services will be recognized at the annual festival for their service to the United States.
Go ahead, eat a ramp! Ramps are also known as wild leeks and have a lovely onion, garlic-like aroma. Native to the Appalachian region, ramps grow in patches in rich, moist, deciduous forests as far north as Canada, west to Missouri and Minnesota, and south to North Carolina and Tennessee. As one of the first plants to emerge in the spring, ramps were traditionally consumed as the year’s first “greens.” Traditionally ramps were considered a tonic because they provided necessary vitamins and minerals following long winter months without access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Most often prepared with sliced potatoes or scrambled eggs, ramps are also used in soup and hamburgers. They can also be pickled, frozen or dried to use later in the year.
Cherokee recipes using ramps
4 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 heaping tbsp. baking powder
½ cup shortening or oil
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup uncooked minced ramps
Sift flour, salt, baking powder and soda together. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like coarse meal; add ramps and enough buttermilk to make a soft dough ball, making sure ramps are well mixed in dough. Turn out on floured surface.
Knead dough from north to south, east to west adding flour if too sticky. The more the dough is kneaded, the lighter the bread. Flatten the dough and cut out biscuits or just leave as flat bread or “pone.”
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place biscuits on a lightly greased pan. Lightly caramelize a small about of ramps in a bit of butter, strain out ramps and brush the top of the dough with the ramp butter. Place in oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Baking time depends on the oven and the thickness of the biscuits. Serve immediately with real butter for best experience.
Note: For heavier bread leave out the shortening and use old fashioned buttermilk; this is a better recipe for diabetics.
Killed Ramps and Branch Lettuce
1 quart of ramps with tops
1 quart of branch lettuce
1 package of bacon
Fry bacon till crisp and set aside to drain. Chop ramps and branch lettuce coarsely and place in a heat resistant bowl. Pour hot dripping over chopped ramps and branch lettuce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with crumbled bacon. Must be served hot.
Note: If you can find then, add some “crows foot greens” to the mixture. They will add a bit of zip to the flavor. A bit of blue cheese takes it to a gourmet level. You may substitute regular green onions and leaf lettuce or spinach, but isn’t nearly as good.
Fried Potatoes and Ramps
6-8 medium white potatoes
2 cups new ramps or 3 cups chopped with tops
1 package of bacon
Salt and pepper
Fry bacon till crisp, set bacon aside to drain. While bacon is cooking, peel and slice potatoes into 1/8 inch thick slices. Place in cold water to prevent them from turning brown and drying out.
After bacon is removed turn down heat and allow to cool a bit. Drain the potatoes and pat dry with paper towel. Place potatoes in skillet with hot bacon grease, add salt and pepper to taste, brown gently. Add ramps and cover with lid. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes or until ramps are clear.
Place ramp and potato mixture in bowl and sprinkle the crumbled bacon on top. Serve hot!
1½ cups white cornmeal
½ cup flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
¼ cup oil
1 cup finely minced ramps
Sift together dry ingredients, add ramps and mix gently. Combine eggs, milk and oil. Fold wet mixture into dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Preheat oven and a well-oiled 8-inch iron skillet to 400 degrees. Pour mixture into the hot skillet and bake for about twenty minutes until top is golden brown and a piece of spaghetti inserted into the center comes out clean.
Serve hot with plenty of butter and a big glass of buttermilk or whole milk.
– EBCI Travel & Tourism