Front Porch Blog

All for the love of Appalachia’s stinky onion

The ramp, a wild onion savored by foodies, is now in season. But overharvesting means the pickin’s are getting slimmer.

[Virginia] The Appalachian ramp has had growing appeal over the past decade – from dozens of humble hill festivals at the season’s high point in mid-April until the end of May to the best tables at the famous Greenbrier hotel in West Virginia to well-known chefs.This spring for the first time, botanists in North Carolina are taking the wild seeds and replicating the soils for commercial cultivation of the ramp. People who live in these parts hope that the ramp can help fill the revenue gap since burley tobacco – the major Appalachian cash crop in the 20th century – is on the way out as with smoking in restaurants. But it’s a tall order: A ramp only grows in elevations above 3,000 feet, and takes seven years to mature. To prevent harvesting too many of the slow-growing plants, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina has banned ramp picking since 2002, and the Cherokee National Forest on the Tennessee-North Carolina border now requires permits for pickers. “All of a sudden we’re harvesting more than the plant can replenish itself in the woods,” says Ms. Davis.

News notes are courtesy of Southern Forests Network News Notes





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