While I’ve been enjoying the sun of the last two days — walking down to the river by my house (accompanied by my two cats who stalk about like they think they are local bobcats), and especially enjoying the spectacular sunsets — my sister in Des Moines has been posting about the first major snow of the year there.
Quite a contrast!
So many of our various Solstice and Yule celebrations are about defying the darkest time of the year with light. Bonfires and Yule logs burn bright to show, in the darkest days of the year, our faith that the days will lengthen, and spring will come again.
I feel a little bit that way about my new favorite seasoning as well. The Smoky Mountain Native Plants Association has a line of products that feature local ramps,
and I am working my way pretty quickly through my jar of ramp seasoning. It is a little candle of spring in a cold kitchen.
Ramps are wild leeks that grow throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains. The earliest of all spring greens, they show above ground for only a few weeks and then they’re gone until the next year. Many mountain towns hold ramp festivals to celebrate their arrival.
Some call them stinky, but I don’t think so. They’re quite pretty, with small white bulbs like green onions but broader flatter leaves. They taste like a cross between onions and garlic, but fresher and wilder somehow.
“Foodies” have discovered ramps in recent years, which has led to overharvesting of the wild plants (which can take seven years to mature). So it’s good to look for producers and events that cultivate ramps or use other means to ensure they are harvesting sustainably. This is the case with the Smoky Mountain Native Plants Association, (based in Stecoah), which is all about preserving native Appalachian plants and culture for future generations.
The little jar of ramp seasoning I have is one of six products they have created, including stone ground cornmeal with ramps and a dip mix. The seasoning is, quite literally, nothing but dehydrated ramps, and it is like having a little bit of spring in a jar! (It’s great when you feel lazy, too, because you really can cheat and replace both onion and garlic with it.) I do find it is tastiest when you don’t cook it too long so that it’s flavor shines through — sprinkled on omelets, laced into cornbread, used like salt on soups . . . you get the idea.
I’m grateful for the remaining warmth here, while also reminded that indeed, winter is coming. It’s time to start thinking about savory meals that take the chill out of your bones. In my family, that means soup beans and cornbread, (any kind of soup, really), roasted root vegetables, and mashed potatoes. I bet this ramp seasoning will find its way onto all of these . . . I’d better get myself some more! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-479-8788 for more information or to order.
- What are you comfort dishes when the weather turns cold?
- And when times are dark, whether literally or figuratively, what ways do you remind yourself that that are brighter times ahead?