Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some ramps and a mountain stream

Last weekend we fled the madness. And it is madness.

Two and about-a-half hours north of the city is a place we first saw ten years ago. It doesn't seem like ten years. So much has happened. I might have done a few things differently, had I known. But some things have stayed the same. And those are good. This is one of them.

We came here for the first time in the fall of 2009. My mother was visiting New York from Cape Town, and we took her to see the beautiful turning leaves in these old - but new to us - mountains. 

We stayed then at Woodstock, and we later chanced upon this river on a meandering drive. We were hungry and it was time to picnic. (You can see that picnic here.)

It is now deep in our bones. We have returned in every season. Even an hour here makes us better than we were when we arrived.

For our visit the other day, I was trying not to hope for ramps, but I hoped, anyway. It is still very early. But there they were, emerging on a sunny and steep slope. It's a warm spot for them. The other side of the valley was in deep shade, and still iced over.

They were growing in pristine mountain water trickling through the tree roots and rocks.

I collected a lunchboxful of leaves, taking a leaf from a plant and leaving the bulbs unmolested. Commercial foragers satisfying markets, supermarkets (like Whole Foods), and restaurants can clear out sackfuls at a time. As a result ramps are threatened. Ten years ago I would have collected the bulbs, too.

In the moss was ample evidence of last year's ramp blossoms. They bloom long after the leaves have become summer dormant. (You can grow ramps if you have moist, acidic soil in high shade. I had success at 1st Place (our last in-ground garden), and was very sad to leave those ramps behind when we moved.)

Green, aromatic treasure. At home I processed most of these ramp leaves into a vivd green oil to keep in the freezer (the method is in Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine).

Look at that water. It is fed by dozens of little streams, and is very close to the top of a watershed - it's so clean.

At one of those little streams the fastidious Frenchman rinsed the leaves we would wrap into our sandwiches.

Not very photogenic. Inside is egg salad and wintercress and crisp bacon.

A digression: The wraps are Joseph's pitas made with flax, oats and wholewheat - if you are looking for low-carb pita or bread stand-ins, this is the one: 9 grams per serving (minus 2 if you subtract fiber). The keto-Frenchman is hooked. We discovered it by chance at our local supermarket but my quick Google now shows you can buy it online.

And then it was back to Ntini (um, yes, our car is named - and see her little Cape Town silhouette sticker?). We drove back home, counting groundhogs along the way, our usual amusement. We entered NYC with no traffic at all, not even over the G.W. Bridge.

In many ways it is very like 9-11. But that was an attack. I am not sure what this is. But it will be analysed for years to come. The real toll will only emerge when every consequence has been identified and herded into a chaotic room and sorted into tidy rows by unemotional statisticians.

But that has no bearing on the present.



  1. I always love your picnic pictures...well, all your pictures really. Is there a source for your lunchbox? My husband and I are sheltering in Seattle, but we have lots of nearby open country and it maybe time to break out into the wild.

    1. Hi Kath - the lunchboxes come from U-Konserve. I love them. The wild is waiting for you xx

  2. Thank you for the reminder - I have much ramp butter in my freezer from last spring and must break it out! We are so blessed to be surrounded by such beauty up here in the mountains, and it never ever gets old. The little creek on my property is running like mad right now with all the snow melt - it's such a soothing sound along with the birdcall, when I'm out doing my morning chores....feed the birds, bring in firewood, and this morning hang the laundry out in the sunshine. Simple pleasures.

  3. You, I mean YOU, have a car? I am speechless!

    1. Yes! For two years! I was never against having a car - just expensive and complicated in NYC. But renting Zipcars and Car2Go's (soooo dirty...) got old. And gave us a taste for escape. We are much happier with one, and V can paraglide again. But we do hate parking her on the street :)

  4. What a beautiful river, the water looks so clean and clear, and how good you can return often to picnic there and refresh your soul.


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