The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Story of POJ Ribbon Cane

By Richard Eppes © 1987

Issue: November, 1987

When I was a young boy in Alabama, I remember planting ribbon cane. I really enjoyed sampling time. In sampling time my daddy would say, "It is sampling time," but he would already be sampling. Then we would go and sample it, too. We would find the largest, tallest stalk in the bunch. We would break it down and strip it. We would take it and peel it then eat it. It would be really sweet. We would chew it until we got the sweetening out of it. Then we would spit the hull out. We would start at the top and go down the stalk. As we went down, the joint would get sweeter and sweeter. If we went down three joints and it was still sweet, it was ready to harvest.

First we would take the seed cane out. We would put it in a bed. It was called a seed bed. We would cover the seed bed with dirt. Then we would go and strip the cane. We would cut it down, put it on the wagon, and carry it to the mill.

At the mill we would make the syrup. It took four men to run the mill: a man to feed the mill, a man to push and pull the fire, a man to skim the syrup, and a man to know when the syrup was ready and put it in a pail. We got two or three hundred gallons of syrup.