WASHINGTON, W.Va. - A springtime tradition was renewed Saturday as ramps and other foods were served at the Washington Bottom Community Building Ramp Dinner.
Vernon Lowers, president of the community building association, said work on the dinner began two weeks ago when the ramps were harvested and preparations began.
Several bushels of the wild onion were washed, peeled, parboiled and fried for the annual dinner-fundraiser. About 30 volunteers were busy Saturday cooking, frying, baking, serving drinks, serving food and cleaning up during the four-hour dinner.
Washington Bottom Ramp Dinner
Lowers said a large crowd is always on hand for the dinner.
"We usually have 400 to 500 show up for the dinner, sometimes as many as 700 with lines out the door," he said. "We have 150 to 160 take-out dinners each year."
Lowers said in addition to ramps, the menu included fried potatoes, apple sauce, beans, ham and cornbread. He said the drinks were coffee and tea. Cake was included in the take-out dinners, he said.
Nathan Blair empties a skillet of fried ramps at the annual Washington Bottom Community Building Ramp Dinner.
Photos by Jeffrey Saulton
Joanna Lowers places pieces of bacon on some ramps while they are on a grill.
Blake Rowan was at his first ramp dinner Saturday with his grandmother, Debbie Green.
Joanna Lowers said while the dinner featured fried ramps there are a number of ways to eat them.
"Most of the time people fry them but they can also be used raw in a salad and they can be used in a soup or stew," she said. "Years ago they were the main seasoning for foods. They add a taste close to garlic, more so than onion."
Joanna Lowers said in addition to the bushels of ramps, harvested from Ritchie County, they fried 45 pounds of bacon to fry with the ramps. She said it took four hours to fry the bacon and then it was broken into small pieces.
The annual Washington Bottom Community Building Ramp Dinner took place Saturday afternoon.
In addition to the wild onion, the menu included fried potatoes, apple sauce, beans, ham and cornbread.
Organizers said they expected to serve up to 500 people at the community building and deliver more than 150 to those who couldn't make it to the dinner.
"We put the ramps through three washes to get all the dirt off them and then they are peeled, parboiled, dried and cooled and kept in coolers until the dinner," she said.
"We fry them on a grill with bacon grease or in iron skillets."
Lowers said cooking the ramps in other types of skillets, like those with a non-stick coating, changes the taste and they do not taste as good. She added those cooked outside taste different from those cooked inside.
Erin Caplinger and Paul Gillespie were at their first ramp dinner on Saturday and said the ramps were much better than expected.
"This is our first time," Caplinger said. "I've driven by here for 10 years and never stopped here to see what it was like."
"They are very good," Gillespie said. "We are hooked on them now."
Another first-time ramp diner was Blake Rowan. His grandmother, Debbie Green, said he did not have much of the ramps.
"He liked the applesauce and the fiddle playing," she said. "He has not acquired the taste for ramps yet."
Green said she has come to the dinner for several years and enjoys the food.