Watoga Trail Report

“Eat Ramps. They’re good for you and they’ll do you good too.” Ken Springer

Ken Springer
Watoga Park Foundation

Keep It Under Your Hat

Did it ever cross your mind that the real reason why West Virginia was the last state in the union to have a confirmed case of the coronavirus, is likely due to the superior constitution of us mountain folk?

Well, it did to Winton MacAfee of Mt. Nebo; and according to MacAfee, the reason why we have this uncanny ability to repel these foreign microbial invaders may have to do with a certain botanical species found in abundance here in our state. But before I divulge his theory in its entirety, he asks that you keep this information under your hat.

For you millennials, the aforementioned phrase is admittedly archaic but it means to keep your mouth shut so as to keep people from out of state, particularly Ohio, from coming down here and stealing said botanicals.

About now it may be dawning on you as to which of the many species of plants that MacAfee is referring to.

Just in case you are still clueless, it is a plant that we honor each year here in West Virginia with a multitude of festivals and church dinners.

In case that light bulb in your head still hasn’t come on, we are talking about the ramp.

According to 96-year-old MacAfee, his remarkable health and vitality is due in large part to his consumption of ramps.

MacAfee, who is proud of his Scottish descent, has competed in the Appalachian Mountains Annual Log-throwing Competition for more than 30 years. For 27 of those years, he has had the coveted log-throwing Grand Championship Hernia Belt proudly displayed above his fireplace.

But more importantly, this great-grandfather has reportedly never had the flu or a cold in his entire life; nor surgery of any kind, even for his chronic hernia.

His has been a lifelong love affair with ramps, claiming that he was started off as a baby using raw ramp bulbs as a pacifier and a wreath of dried ramps as a teething ring.

His taste for ramps was well established by first grade, and by the time he was a high school sophomore he had published a book about ramps titled, Ramps, For All That Ails You.

With credentials such as these, I knew that I had to interview him about the health benefits of eating ramps.

“Ramps are much more than just a breath freshener,” MacAfee said.

He swears that his apparent immunity to everything from corns to cancer is because of the “secret” ingredient in our humble ramp.

I asked him what the secret ingredient is and he wisely replied, “That’s why it’s called a secret, nobody knows what it is, but as sure as the sun’s gonna rise tomorrow morning, it works, and I’m living proof of that.”

MacAfee shared his own ideas about how to treat and prevent the coronavirus.

“All the government has to do to get this nation back on its feet and get shed of this flu is to set up army-style mess tents in every state and serve each citizen a big mess of boiled ramps.

“And,” he added, “They could also add a side of fried taters, brown beans and cornbread.

“And a cup of sassafras tea wouldn’t hurt either.” 

“Between Kentucky and West Virginia, we’ve got enough ramps to feed the nation.”

When I pointed out that earlier, he voiced the sentiment that ramps are our little secret here in West Virginia and should be kept as such, he replied, “I know what I said, but a sudden wave of patriotism just swept over me, and now I feel that West Virginia should step up to the plate, and that goes for you too, Kentucky!”

Before I could question him further, MacAfee insisted on showing me a demonstration of his skills of the Scottish Caber Toss by throwing a 300-pound oak log. Unfortunately, it landed on the hood of my Toyota Tacoma, and I found myself in the rare condition of being impressed and depressed at the very same time.

But I thought, what the hey, it’s a great story to tell my grandchildren.

I bet that right about now you’re thinking “Why, this episode of the Watoga Trail Report is nothing but a bunch of balderdash;” and you would be correct in that line of thought. It is just my way of paying homage to the one day in the year when we can get away with infringing somewhat upon the eighth commandment.

But now that you have already invested a reasonable portion of your day into this tale, I implore you to continue on a little further as we determine if the ramp offers any health benefits in these times of social distancing.

So, what does science have to say about ramps and their effects on our general health and the immune system in particular?

A chemical analysis of ramps, which are in the same family as garlic and leeks, reveals a small amount of vitamin C, so keep eating those citrus fruits. Additionally, ramps contain several minerals including potassium and iron, about as much as you would get from plain old garlic.

So far, there is nothing to support the assertion that the consumption of ramps, and ramps alone, are responsible for MacAfee’s exceptional health and vitality – were he a real person, that is.

Ramps do contain significant amounts of both flavonoids and sulfur compounds. And these do provide a number of health benefits.

Flavonoids function to protect the plant and have been identified as having strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties when consumed by humans.

The sulfur compound allicin, found in ramps, is also considered an antioxidant and antibacterial. Additionally, they may improve circulation and prevent certain cancers. 

While all of the flavonoids and sulfur compounds contribute to good health, none would likely mitigate the COVID-19 virus.

On the whole, ramps are exceedingly nutritious, so they do contribute to our health, and to some degree, our immune system. And if one does come down with the virus, being healthy, with an additional boost from eating ramps, may help us get over the virus quicker and with less discomfort.

Readers, I encourage you to follow all of the precautions suggested for preventing this potentially lethal disease. Maintain social-distancing and wear personal protective equipment when you absolutely must be around others.

And you won’t have to worry about avoiding crowds of people – after a meal of ramps, it is they who will be avoiding you.

So eat ramps at every opportunity you get. As Winton MacAfee would say about ramps – if there was such a person –
“Ramps – they’re good for you, and they’ll do you good, too.”

Stay healthy folks,
Ken Springer

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