The ramp is a potent wild bulb likened to a cross between an onion and garlic. Ramps have attracted a culinary and cultural following, with ramp festivals cropping up in many mountain communities in recent years. But their popularity is taking a toll.
“Over the years, we’ve seen a decline in populations of ginseng and other forest products such as ramps,” said Gary Kauffman, a botanist with the national forests in North Carolina.
The forest service warns that over-harvesting may lead to management changes such as shortening the picking season, reducing how many ramps can be picked or banning the harvest altogether.
The forest service is urging ramp harvesters to follow regulations and help regeneration by not taking too many of the plant in a single area. Part of the problem is due illegal harvesting. Penalties for plant poaching may include a fine up to $5,000 and a sentence in a federal prison. Ramp collecting is not allowed on national park lands and is only allowed on national forest lands in certain areas only. Permits are required for commercial uses or for more than five pounds.
Check with your local ranger stations for regulations and permits for harvesting ramps. 828.257.4200.