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The Problem With Ramps

For locavores, April is the smelliest month.

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It’s ramp season, and although gorging on wild onions is a joyous rite of spring, there is a downside. It’s known in certain circles as ramp breath. Like other members of the allium family, ramps, you see, have a nasty way of extracting sulfur from the soil and transforming it into a potent arsenal of chemical weaponry. Nature’s intent in devising such a system was to deter animals from eating the plants, but Nature may not have planned on locavores. How potent is the aroma? Greenmarket farmer Rick Bishop, who digs ramps near his Roscoe farm, says that in the dead of winter he has, on occasion, accidentally run over a ramp patch with his truck, and the odiferous result was indistinguishable from that of dead skunk. In fact, some say that ramp breath is worse than garlic breath, which according to Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, may be derived from various chemical relatives of the stuff that gives skunks their stinky swagger. So how do you treat the condition? You can eat an apple or a salad (browning enzymes in raw fruits and vegetables, according to McGee, neutralize odor molecules). Our oral-hygiene sources tell us that chewing on parsley works, too. As for the pungent bouquet that gets under your skin and oozes from your pores, though, you’re on your own.


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