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The first Upper Delaware Ramp Festival

A wild vegetable that inspired a local movement

By FRITZ MAYER

NORTH BRANCH, NY — What is a ramp? It’s a vegetable that grows almost entirely in the wild, with a taste that has been described as a cross between onions, leeks and garlic.

And the first annual ramp festival in this area is set to debut this weekend. Here’s how it all started.

About a year ago, a group of friends were having a dinner party in North Branch at which ramps were heavily featured. Dennis O’Connor remembered that ramps were being used as a garnish in martinis. Joseph Lennon remembered that, “we were really thrilled with the idea that after a long winter, suddenly there was food from the ground, that wasn’t shipped in or from a root cellar or canned or frozen. Ramps are like a tonic after a long winter, and they come up every spring no matter what.”

The group decided that it would be a good idea to have a ramp festival.

The whole endeavor could have ended there. But because a growing number of people in the area are concerned about local food and sustainability, the people involved in the ramp dinner teamed up with others in the community and formed a local chapter of Slow Food U.S.A., a non-profit educational organization dedicated to stewardship of the land and ecologically sound food production.

The group’s application was accepted in January, and thus was borne the Slow Food Upper Delaware River Valley Convivium. The Ramp Festival is the group’s first major public event.

The festival will take place on May 3 and 4, with four free events at different locations.

On May 3 at 11:00 a.m., there will be a Wild Edible and Wild Flower Walk, which is designed to appeal to children. Participants will learn which wild plants are good to eat and how to find them. The walk will depart from The Cutting Garden in Youngsville.

At 2:00 p.m. at the Old North Branch Inn, there will be what the organization is calling a Taste Workshop, where participants can learn about how to use ramps in cooking.

On May 4, at 11:00 a.m., there will be a ramp booth at the Sullivan County Farmers’ Market in Callicoon, where information about ramps and the Slow Food Upper Delaware Valley Convivium will be available.

At 2:00 p.m., there will be a “Ramp Tramp” where participants will be led to various ramp locations and shown how to find ramps and harvest them sustainably. The tour will leave from the market.

For more information, go to www.slowfoodupderiva.org or contact Joseph Lennon at joseph.upderiva@earthlink.net or call 845/482-5929.

Contributed photo by Adrianne Picciano
Early season bounty: Ramps are now available in the Upper Delaware Valley if you know where to look. To find out about the festival that was inspired by this aromatic wild vegetable, turn to page 5. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer
This potted ramp was on display at a fundraiser for Slow Food Upper Delaware River Valley Convivium, a chapter of Slow Food U.S.A., in Jeffersonville, NY on April 26. (Click for larger version)