As of February 26th, my parents had six feet of snow stacked up on either side of their front walk. The forecast called for snow to continue to fall through March 5th. They are ready for winter to be over, as is a lot of this country.
One of the things snow weary people look forward to are the first herbs and foods of Spring. We’re a lot better off than the first settlers of this continent, but fresh food is always preferred. Some of these plants don’t grow in all of the country, but those that do are most welcome.
The members of the allium family are usually the first up in Spring. Chives, being smaller, can be available at one of the earliest points. Since the roots aren’t used, they also last a long time. Alliums are good for the heart, but not good for your cat.
This is a plant I don’t recommend. A decade or so ago, it was heralded as a new way to prevent tooth decay, but to be honest, most people do not tolerate it well. This is especially true if you swallow it.
While most people look at this as a pest now, the reason it’s in your lawn is because the original settlers valued it so highly. Besides it’s uses in herbal remedies, it is also full of nutrients. The very young leaves may be good in a salad, but older leaves should be cooked like spinach. If you take a diuretic, ask your doctor if you can use it safely.
I’m not sure the plant I’ve seen on cooking shows is the one I know of as the ransom. In the early Spring, areas of West Virginia celebrate the Feast of the Ransom. It looks a great deal like a scallion, but believe me, it is *much* stronger in taste and smell.
One of the favorite stories in our family has to do with this feast. Legendary writer Jim Comstock, editor of The Hillbilly once decided to have a little fun with it. He mixed ramp juice in with the printer’s ink. That was OK (well sort of) with locals, but the United States Postal Service objected strongly when he tried to mail it.
Ramps are related to chives, but much stronger. They are one of the first plants up in Spring, and have been used for generations of West Virginians as a “Spring tonic,” both raw and cooked. Everyone in the region either eats them because they like them or in self defense, so as not to smell the others.
Mary Bodel, MH