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Rowdy Facebook food page erupts over harvesting of ramps

Rowdy Facebook food page erupts over harvesting of ramps

NEW YORK — A popular, food-focused Facebook page bearing the name of The New York Times erupted in unruly debate again Wednesday over unsustainable harvesting of a basketful of coveted ramps purchased by an artist in upstate New York.

Tom Brauer of Norwich, New York, was no worse for the pummeling.

He had posted a photo and a question to The New York Times Cooking Community page, which has more than 83,000 members, asking how he should prepare the 15 or so ramps he bought for $10 from a forager who had a van full of the wild spring onions, which grow for just a month.

The photo, showing bulbs and roots attached, prompted a member of the private group to decry the way they were pulled. Pulling the entire plant means it can’t grow again next season. Detractors soon piled on the critic, questioning her judgy tone, while others noted the harvesting practice threatens to endanger the beloved cooking ingredient.

Commenters wrongly assumed Brauer had foraged the ramps himself.

“It’s funny because I used to be on that page a lot but it got really aggressive so I kind of went off,” he said. “The whole thing was kind of annoying and obnoxious, but I do appreciate the info to be honest. I think I’m going to take the roots and plant them in my garden. The delivery was a little harsh, but what are you going to do?”

Brauer, 42, said he had no idea it was frowned on to take the bulbs and roots, and feels bad about it. He bought them from the forager while the two were at a friend’s house Monday.

So what’s he going to do with the ramps?

“I’m going to do a splayed chicken with caramelized ramps,” said Brauer, a painter who works in his family’s appliance store. “My cousin and his family are coming up for the weekend and I always cook them chicken.”

As for the lively recipe page, the newspaper announced last month it plans to remove its branding once it appoints volunteer moderators to take over. The paper cited the time it takes to staff and moderate the group, which has seen numerous controversies and debates spanning politics, race and privilege.

“One thing is clear: The interest in this group is about much more than recipes or The New York Times,” the announcement said.

The group was started in 2019 and grew quickly, with drama over how to discuss the cultural aspects of food, such as the use of MSG. For years, the food additive was branded as an unhealthy processed ingredient mainly found in Chinese food, despite a lack of supporting scientific evidence. The group erupted over anti-Asian sentiment.

Last October, members staged a revolt with food styled to say “vote” amid posts for particular candidates.

Brauer’s chief critic, who derided him for pulling ramp roots, later toned down her response Wednesday, saying: “Y’all are a trip!”

Leanne Italie, The Associated Press