Small but powerful, the ramp’s overwhelming raw odor precedes the sweet, green onion taste it takes on when cooked.
Locals love them best fried with potatoes in bacon drippings and served alongside soup beans and cornbread.
And so they shall on Saturday, May 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the annual Flag Pond Ramp Festival at the former Flag Pond School, located just off Interstate 26 on the Old Asheville Highway.
Dished up with a daylong roster of mountain music, dancing and kids’ activities, the festival annually attract upwards of 1,000 visitors to this little mountain town.
Admission is free. Heaping plates of fried potatoes and ramps, beans, bacon, coleslaw and cornbread served with a drink and homemade dessert are $8. For those who can’t get enough, bundles of freshly dug ramps can be purchased for $5 each.
Mary Waldrop, whose husband Richard is president of the Flag Pond Ruritan club that hosts the annual festival, said most of the people who attend come from other cities, counties and several different states.
”People who live here don’t don’t need ramps because they can go into the mountains and dig their own ramps,” she said.
But with less than 40 club members, the Ruritan relies on the more than 100 Flag Pond community members who chip in to make the festival possible, including those who make multiple trips into the mountains to dig the 30 to 40 gallons of ramps needed for the serving line alone.
All proceeds go the club to help with community needs. The neighboring Flag Pond Volunteer Fire Department also earns critically needed funding from the festival by roping off the adjoining fields for parking by donation. For those who prefer, free parking is available across the street from the school and fire department.
Entertainers lined up to perform at this year’s festival include the Unicoi County High School Bluegrass Band; Tim Pharis, the new park ranger at Rocky Fork State Park and a former student of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass Program; The Dandy Lines dancers; Ashley Mumpower; and The Bosses.
For those with less taste for authentic Appalachian cooking, hamburgers, hot dogs and nachos will be also available for purchase.
For more information about the festival and the popular mountain leek it celebrates, visit flagpond.com.
Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.