Today my huge family went on its annual ramping adventure. Don't know what ramps are? Wild, wild onions. It is kind of an odd tradition, but we love it. We all convoy up to a park and climb "the mountain" to pick them--they have a leafy top and a bulbuous bottom--onions. And they smell--BAD.
Think domesticated onions smell terribly? Try ramps. I won't go near my aunts and uncles for a week. My hands reek from handling them.
After we pick them, we clean them in a creek that parallels the road. My little cousins wade around in the water, their pants needing at least three cycles of Tide. I have been doing this all 18 years of my life, but I am more of a bystander to the water antics now. I used to get just as muddy, mud and rocks sloshing around in my shoes, making sucking noises that I liked to laugh at.
More than picking onions (odd as it seems), this is a family tradition that has transcended five generations. My great grandmother, Jean (I am named after her--Amanda Jean Marie), started it. I heard that she picked ramps into her 60s. It has become an initiation into the "clan". If you feel really strong about someone romatically, you take them ramp picking--the ultimate test of relationships. We are candid. Real. Loud. These prospective mates really get to know "the family" without the usual pleasantries of other settings.
The best part is that we make a new set of memories each year. For example, one year, I got lost--incredibly lost and was saved by a man in the woods. The experience inspired a short story for my high school literature class. My aunt locked her keys in the car. We dammed up the creek one year. A deer came within ten yards of my aunt. My cousin, Daniel, caught a crayfish. I scared my grandpap so badly driving him home 35 mph--he is such a SLOW DRIVER (I thought he was going to puke or hyperventilate). My mom started a time capsule.
Time capsule? My mom has a jar, she changed it this year to a bigger one, that she places in the ground with pictures, coins of the years we have visited, and most precious--notes from us. We have news records of the year both on a world scale and within the family. We also write individual letters to our future family. Then we seal it up in the glass container, put it in a garbage bag and put it back to be opened the next year. The best part is when we dig it up each year. Is it still there? Did anyone find it? My mom put our address on the inside so that if anyone finds it, they can send it back to us.
However, the practice is also illegal in most parks....Dang. :-D My family the onion-picking outlaws. How romantic.
Oh yeah. How do you pick a ramp? You can either grab it by the leaves and pull very gently or you can cut it out of the soft spring soil, very carefully to avoid cutting off the smelly root.
How do you prepare them? Clean off all the chunk from the ground: dirt, snails *ewww*, leaves, and mud, and gently swish them around in the creek. Then cut off the leafy stems.
How do you eat them? I don't. My hands still stink from them. I can't imagine my entire mouth smelling like that. Too wild. Most of my relatives eat them on hotdogs or hamburgers, but my Aunt Debbie eats them raw, throwing the stems over her shoulder at the picnic table. You have to be careful walking behind her. hehe.
Though many of my cousins are getting married, they are still coming. While I don't see marriage and a family in the near future for myself, someday I hope to be 70 climbing the hill with my grandchildren. When I think of that, I just smile. There's so much life to live--so many ramps to be picked.Posted by Amanda Cochran at May 9, 2004 10:28 PM