I guess April is the best month of the year.
April is when you know you won’t die from scurvy because there are all the green things peeking out from the ground full of the essential vitamins and minerals. That green is full of vitamins C and A and all that good stuff.
Granny would take me out when I was around 8 or so to scratch around for the first glimpses of green. She picked creasy greens right out of the yard and especially from the disturbed ground in the garden spot. She would even pick raspberry leaves and add it to the basket. When we got home she would kind of blanch them before she served them with bacon grease.
About that same time, Daddy would bring in big bags of ramps. The women in the house would not cook or eat them – ramps were man food. Daddy would fry up some cubed potatoes in bacon grease, and when the potatoes were about done, he would toss in handfuls of chopped ramps. Granny, Grandma and Mom would complain that the smell would linger in the curtains, but Daddy and whoever happened to be around would dive into those ramps and taters. I made sure I was around, so I got to have a big plate. I really was hoping that the smell would linger on me so I would not have to go to school. I had heard of boys getting sent home or having to sit in the hall all day if they ate ramps. I didn’t know at the time that it was the boys who ate them raw that got in trouble for stinking. Actually, I don’t think I ever knew anyone who actually was sent home, and I never saw anyone sitting in the hall for smelling like ramps.
Daddy would make ramps and scrambled eggs for the two of us for breakfast if I got up early enough. I was hooked.
A couple of weeks into April, Granny would take me out again and we would gather poke weed, or poke “sallet,” from the roadsides and disturbed ground places. She would bring it home, look it over for bugs and such and then drop it into a pot of boiling water until it was blanched real good. She drained that water off, and then put it into a big pan of bacon grease to cook some more before she added eggs and scrambled it all up. She did not boil and rinse several times like you read about, and I am still alive to tell about it.
This year things seemed to come up a little later than usual. Ramps were up at their regular late March, and we got just enough to prevent scurvy. I started looking for morels the first week in April but did not find any until the second week. Every one I knew was posting pictures of morels as big as Coke cans and pictures of food. Melissa Smith made a pizza with morels and ramps, and people sent me pictures of huge mushrooms asking if they were morels. I was going daily to my usual places with no luck until Angi came over with her boyfriend Matt. Now he has the eye for mushrooms. We would walk along, and he would spot an ash tree and down the bank he went. He would get several from around the tree. I would look under old apples and find a couple. It was not a contest, but I was really impressed with his spotting. We had around two pounds, thanks to Matt.
The next week we had the traditional ramps and taters, morels in gravy, and other tasty treats.
Tom brought home a bag of poke he had found at his job site, and I was more tickled than if he had brought roses. I love poke sallet and eggs. I made some at school and found a buddy to eat with. Little Erica Messer shared some with me and told me she loved me for sharing.
Well, I still didn’t find any branch lettuce or Sochan (cut-leaf or green-headed coneflower). I am still looking, but I may have missed the window.
There is always next April.
Here’s how to make ramps and taters with bacon, egg and cheese.
In a large iron skillet, fry some bacon and set aside. In the same pan, fry potatoes chopped into cubes (I don’t peel). When they are nearly done, toss in some ramps according to taste, the white parts first and then the greens; they cook really fast. Then break eggs on top of the potatoes and put on a tight lid to steam the eggs. Check them to make sure they cook to your liking, but not too hard. Sprinkle with the bacon broken into bits and grated cheese.
This makes the best breakfast or dinner.