Monday, April 13, 2009

Ramps (the edible type, not the skateboarding ones)

Early Spring means Ramp Season in the midwest. Ramps (Allium Tricoccum), a cross between onions and garlic, have a very short season - a few weeks - so you have to enjoy them while you can. They are the first green edible item to emerge after winter -- kicking off the new growing season. For seasonal eaters that means the days of root vegetables, root vegetables, and more root vegetables are over. There is a great local organization called The Land Connection, and its big fundraiser, recently held, is called RampFest. Local chefs cook up dishes highlighting ramps.

These are ramps and they make a great pasta sauce (more a ramp pesto). They are also great in omelettes.
OK. So what do ramps have to do with Chicago? Well, according to a few sources, they are probably the reason for the city's name. The Potawatami word for wild onions (also skunk but we'll ignore that variation) is Checagou. Apparently there were a lot of ramps growing here in the "old days" and the area had a distinct aroma. One of the Riverwalk Murals memorializes the impact ramps had on Chicago (the ramps are at the top of the mural, above the boat).

2 comments:

Paul said...

You got me for a second there, over here in UK we call them spring onions. I am not a great onion fan, but I quite like a little in a sandwich.
Paul Leeds Photo Daily

Dan said...

I grew up in Chi-town and that is the story I was told in school about the origin of the city's name.