The onion ramp, aka the ramson. I’ve had them only once, thanks to a friend who bought 20 pounds at a farmers market in West Virginia. They stunk up his truck all the way home. But not to worry because they were sweet with their combination onion-garlic taste.

Traipsing through the woods near Craigsville, W.Va.: “Gotta find ramps, gotta find ramps.”

And suddenly there they are, growing wild, pastures of plenty. Look for flat leaves, their stalks reaching into the warming sweet earth. The ramps have arrived.

More than a few of you were less than ecstatic with my “Onion Nation” piece last week. Guilty as charged. I ignored the most noble of West Virginia delicacies: the onion ramp, aka the ramson.

I’ve had them only once, thanks to a friend who bought 20 pounds at a farmers market in West Virginia. They stunk up his truck all the way home. But not to worry because they were sweet with their combination onion-garlic taste.

Ramps started as a wild plant native to central and lower Eastern states and around Quebec. They now are protected in Canada, and restaurants cannot serve them.

Don’t ask me why, but West Virginians never got over them and began cultivating. Then came the ramp festivals, the dogs and babies dressed as ramps in parades, the ramp humor and on and on. Some believe ramp farms will replace tobacco growing.

Richwood, W.Va., home of the G-N Ramp Farm, became ground zero for rampheads. The “other” NRA (National Ramp Association) is there, enshrining this “spring tonic of vegetables.”

It’s best to find ramps early in the season, April for the sweetest ones. Like their cousin the onion, they grow stronger with age. You’ll find them in groups. Green leaves top white stalks forming a bulb.

We got behind a smelly ramp wagon down there. That’s the other side of ramps. Combine onions and garlic, and you have a critical mass of aroma and flavor. Just don’t have a date for a few days … like 10.

Ramps get a good but cautious press. Jim and Bronson Comstock crafted the West Virginia Hillbilly weekly newspaper in 1957. They smothered their competition by telling ramp jokes and putting ramp juice in their printing ink. Unfortunately, the Post Office –– what do they know? –– freaked.

Jane Snow, the Beacon Journal’s excellent food writer from the happy days, pens ramps perfectly: “They are like fried green onions with a dash of funky feet.”

Jane knew where many of her readers grew up.

Richwood G-N Ramp Farm is at http://www.rampfarm.com.

Catch Jane Snow’s latest work at: http://www.janesnowtoday.com.

Ramp Stew

1 pound stew meat (beef, venison, whatever) 10-15 medium ramps, leaves and roots removed 2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped 3 carrots, peeled and sliced 2-3 potatoes, peeled and sliced 2 bay leaves 1 (10-ounce) can beef broth 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour seasoned with salt and pepper Salt and pepper

Cut meat into bite-size pieces, and roll in seasoned flour. Brown on all sides in butter melted in a stew pot, about 5 minutes. Add broth, stirring up the browned meat bits. Add remaining ingredients and water to cover, and simmer covered for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve in soup bowls with cornbread or biscuits and apple butter.

Notes: Leeks may be substituted for ramps for a milder flavor. This stew forms its own gravy. Add water if too thick, or uncover the pot while simmering to thicken.

Serves 4-6.