Wild leek (Allium tricoccum)
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Wild leeks (Allium tricoccum), also known as ramps or ail des bois (french), are a member of the onion family (Alliaceae). Found in groups with broad, smooth, light green leaves, often with deep purple or burgundy tints on the lower stems and a scallion-like bulb strongly rooted just beneath the surface of the soil. Both the white root and the broad green leaves are edible. They are found from the U.S. state of South Carolina to Canada and are especially popular in the cuisine of the US state of West Virginia and the Canadian province of Quebec when they emerge in the springtime. A common description of the flavor is like a combination of onions and strong garlic.
In central Appalachia, ramps are most commonly fried with potatoes in bacon grease or scrambled with eggs and served with bacon, pinto beans, and cornbread. Ramps, however, are quite adaptable to almost any food style and can also be used in soups, puddings, ketchup, guacamole and other foods, in place of onions and garlic. Some people like them raw, but others say the aroma of raw wild leeks stays with one for days[attribution needed].
The community of Richwood, West Virginia holds the annual “Feast of the Ramson” in April. Sponsored by the National Ramp Association, the ‘ramp feed’ (as it is locally known) brings thousands of ramp aficianados from considerable distances to sample foods featuring the plant. During the ramp season (late winter through early spring), restaurants in the town serve a wide variety of foods containing wild leeks.
The community of Whitetop, Virginia holds its annual ramp festival the third weekend in May. It is sponsored by the Mount Rogers volunteer fire department and features local old time music from Wayne Henderson and other bands and a barbecued chicken feast complete with fried potatoes and ramps and local green beans. A ramp-eating contest is held for children through adults.
In Canada, wild leeks are considered rare delicacies. Since the growth of leeks is not as widespread as in West Virginia and because of destructive human practices, wild leeks are an endangered species in Quebec.