Archive for April, 2010

Spring Morel Hunting in the WV Woods

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

It’s cold and wet in Davis, WV today, and just barely spring, but here on top of the mountain we’ve found morels! Yes, at an undisclosed location near Blackwater Falls, I found six beautiful morels this morning, arguably the most succulent and delicious mushrooms of all.

Brown and gnarly, morels are hard to find. They blend in perfectly with decayed leaves and soil, and are usually found beneath elm, poplar, sycamore or ash trees, though sometimes in old apple orchards, too.  Morels are luscious with butter and cream, mixed in with pasta, or just floured and fried in olive oil.

The Bright Morning Inn’s restaurant serves ramps in the spring, small wild leeks that carpet the hillsides in early spring. But we won’t be serving morels. They too scarce…and they’re one thing that we locals won’t share. But if you’re willing to visit us in springtime, a notorious slow season, we might share with you a few tips about morel hunting.

First morel found April 28, 2010 near Blackwater Falls, WV

Celebrating Spring on the Refuge

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Coiled strands of frog eggs hatching on a refuge wetland pond

 Early spring on the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge reminds us that the refuge is largely a wetland…what they used to call a swamp. When folks in the lower elevations celebrate redbuds and dogwoods, here in Davis, WV, on the edge of the refuge, we delight in skunk cabbage, and the sounds and sites of many mating frogs.  Any puddle on the refuge teems with frog eggs now, and then tadpoles, and then the ground is alive with them. Tiny at first, they head into the woods to offer succulant morsels to their many predators: birds, fish, turtles, snakes…just about everyone finds them appetizing.

Early spring is also time for the annual Woodcock Roundup, where birdlovers come together to identify and count this unusual bird whose mating dance is one of our area’s earliest harbingers of spring. This year the event takes place on Saturday, April 17th at 6:30 p.m. and will be led by refuge biologist Ken Sturm. Be prepared with walking shoes or boots and dress for the weather.

Celebrate this special time of year at one of the most beautiful places in West Virginia. As John Denver once said, it’s the place where you belong.

Ramp Season Comes to Davis

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Early April and ramps we are digging ramps for the Bright Morning Inn restaurant

Early spring in Davis is beautiful, but it’s lackluster when compared to warmer places with their opulent flower spectacles. Our spring is more subtle than that, and it takes forever to get here. That’s why ramps are such a celebration in the mountains. They are proof that the season has finally turned, and they’re a great treat for those of us who seek out wild and local foods.

Ramps are wild leeks, Allium tricoccum to be specific, and members of the lily family. They are a pungent cross between garlic and onion, with delicate strappy green leaves and a white stem that looks a lot like a scallion. Ramps grown on steep rocky hillsides at higher elevations, which makes them a challenge to dig. But they’re worth it. Because they add a marvelous garlicky flavor to bland foods like eggs and potatoes, which is how they’re served at many traditional ramp dinners, called “ramp feeds” by locals.

At the Bright Morning Inn, we scramble them with fresh orange-yolked country eggs and potatoes, or sprinkle them in omelets with bacon and cheese. They’re wildly popular, but they don’t last long. By the middle of May most local ramps have withered or grown too big and stinky, which means one thing: you must eat them, as many as you can, when they’re in season. They’re a spring tonic, and a tangible tie to our forebearers, who relished the first wild greens of the season in all their forms.

On May 2nd the Mount Grove Volunteer Fire Department will host their annual ramp feed near the Tucker County line (about 9 miles north of Davis). From 11 am to 3 pm you can feast on an array of traditional country dishes including fried pototoes, pinto and great northern beans, cornbread, ham and various raw and cooked ramp treats. It’s a truly special slice of West Virginia culture you won’t want to miss. In fact, it has been chronicled in the Spring 2010 issue of Goldenseal, our magazine of West Virginia Traditional Life.



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