CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We've had an earlier spring than normal, which has prompted me to lighten up on the body of the wines I'm drinking now. For the time being -- at least -- I am switching to lighter textured wines that fit more with the increased activity level the nice weather has precipitated for even a lummox like me.
While I am not one to forgo use of my charcoal grill even when snowflakes are falling, I find it much more comfortable to stoke up the old Weber Performer when Mother Nature smiles on us. Lately, I have been grilling a wide variety of animal parts and as many veggies as possible, including that lovely little lily of the mountains -- ramps.
Yes, I said ramps.
Most folks smother the flavor of these wild leeks by covering them up in dishes like pinto beans or fried potatoes, but not this mountaineer. No siree. I simply toss them in a little olive oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and throw them on the grill being careful not to set them ablaze.
Then, I use them to spark up whatever grilled meat or vegetable that is the meal's main entrée. It may surprise the uninitiated, but cooked ramps, like their leek and onion cousins, shed a lot of their eye-watering pungency.
I am not suggesting that ramps become sweet when cooked or grilled, but they sure are tender and marry really well with roasted meat. Cooking them will also eliminate the rather odoriferous effects of consuming the little buggers raw.
If you ever do eat them in their natural state, make sure the people who live within a mile of you have fair warning. This is to prevent them from: a) losing consciousness; b) murdering you; or c) calling in an air strike on your home. The first time I consumed ramps, I was still living with my parents. Home from college for the weekend, I ate a mess of ramps raw and washed them down with several cold ones.
For once in my post adolescent years, my mother allowed me to sleep in (she actually locked me in my room) while she proceeded to fumigate the premises. She was not amused, and when I emerged stealthily from my bedroom window, she was waiting with hose in hand. After de-lousing me, she sent me packing, back to torture my classmates at WVU.