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What are ramps and why are people nuts about them?

Jeff Crump, Executive Chef at the Ancaster Old Mill Inn restaurant, forages for ramps (wild leeks) in a forest in Dundas, Ont., May 6, 2005, not far from the restaurant. The ramps, which he claims can sell for $15 a pound at the grocery store, grow in unusually large quantities in the forested areas around the upscale eatery.

Sheryl Nadler / CP/Sheryl Nadler / CP

The question

Every spring, my foodie friends go crazy about wild leeks – and when I say crazy, I mean it. They put pounds and pounds of ramps on everything, making their breath stink for the following month. I just don't get it. What am I missing?

The answer

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For every person who genuinely likes eating ramps, there are another nine who secretly loathe them but fear that saying so would kill their foodie cred. Also called wild leeks, ramps are valued more for what they symbolize – in much of Canada, they're the first edible signs of spring – than how they taste.

They taste, mostly, like mild-ish green onions, except that green onions cost 49 cents a bunch at the Price Chopper and people put them on chop suey. Ergo, ramps get their own $150-a-head festivals, but you never hear Slow Foodistas bragging about eating their body weight in green-onion pesto.

There. You know better now. If your pals invite you to an all-ramp dinner and you haven't already drunk the ramp-flavoured Kool-Aid, do yourself a favour and skip it. Last time I went to one, I dreamed of Listerine fire hoses for weeks.

Follow food writer Chris Nuttall-Smith on Twitter: @cnutsmith. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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