“If you look at a book on trees or on Wikipedia, it will say that the [American chestnut] blight was first spotted in 1904, or came over ‘ca. 1900,’ through certain Long Island nursery men, but I found old newspaper clippings suggesting… that the blight had begun much earlier, either right before or right after the Civil War, and had begun in the interior, not on the coast and not in the Northeast but in places like Georgia and Virginia, the Carolinas.
“The first manifestation I could find of whatever it was occurred in Rockingham, North Carolina…. I started finding these newspaper stories, first from small-town papers around Rockingham and then from a widening radius. People would be meeting in these towns, having meetings basically to ask, ‘What are we going to do about the chestnuts dying?’ ”
“Ramps are wild onions that Native Americans have harvested for thousands of years. They’re also a staple ingredient in traditional Southern Appalachian kitchens. Over the last several years, the bold-tasting green has become wildly popular among foodies, apt to appear on the menu of a trendy restaurant or bunched at farmers’ markets.
“[Forest resource specialist Tommy] Cabe said forest-harvested ramps fetched as much as $50 per gallon last year. ‘That’s a pretty good economy for someone who can spend a day in the woods,’ he said. The website Earthy.com listed the retail price of one pound of fresh ramps for $15.95, though currently out of stock in the off-season.
“While a permit is required to harvest ramps from national forests, not everyone follows those regulations, which can be difficult to enforce. As a result, Cabe and other gatherers must go deeper into the forest to find healthy plants….”
Wouldn’t Thad Eure be tickled!