Ramps Reporting: What 70 Years of Popular Media Tells Us About A Cultural Keystone Species
Ramps (Allium tricoccum Aiton), a wild onion, are an enduring seasonal food and symbol of cultural identity in Appalachia. Growing national interest in ramps as a culinary delicacy has raised questions about their sustainable use, although systematic documentation of their rise in popularity is lacking. We seek to augment our understanding of demand for ramps by examining changes in media coverage of the plant over time. We trace shifts in the portrayal of ramps, from a provincial novelty to a high-end food source through a thematic analysis of two popular media datasets. Our analysis of over 3,100 news articles demonstrates that issue attention to ramps, quantified by the number of topical articles printed each decade, and geographical distribution of media coverage, has substantially increased since the 1980s. While narratives continue to acknowledge the importance of ramps as a cultural keystone species of Appalachia, the focus of recent reporting has expanded to promote ramps as a hyperlocal spring delicacy across Eastern North America. Articles increasingly introduce overharvesting concerns and sustainable gathering techniques. Importantly, we highlight those who are left out of media attention, namely Native American communities who have had relations with ramps as food and medicine for millennia.