Wild ginseng has been found in Northern China, Korea, Vietnam, Eastern Siberia, Canada, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Kentucky. It is becoming increasingly harder to find due to the high demand in recent years. It requires years for ginseng to reach maturity.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have protective regulations in place where states allow the export of wild harvested ginseng. Most states have only late summer and early fall hunting seasons for this valuable root. Regulations vary from state to state so you should contact the state wildlife authorities before your hunting trip. Ginseng must be appraised and state certified before the time of sale which can be done by a certified ginseng buyer or dealer.
Wild ginseng grows in hard wood forest that has adequate rainfall and where the forest supplies about 80 percent shade to the young plants. In the United States ginseng is often found growing around Beech, Hickory and Popular trees. If you also see golden seal or sarsaparilla plants growing in the same are then you are in the right environment. You need landowners’ permission to hunt if private property.
Prime ginseng hunting areas is a closely guarded secret of the professional hunters and to be successful you will need experience and persistence. You will need very little in the way of equipment. Some type of digging tool, a sack to carry your treasures in, good hiking shoes or boots and a pocket field guide of the local wild plants. A good field guide will provide pictures and description of the local flora and can usually be purchased for under $25.
Ginseng will grow about one foot tall and when they are old enough to harvest, about 5 to 8 years old, they will have three prongs growing off the main stem with five leaves on each prong. When digging, be sure to not damage the plant and you will want to collect all of the small rootlets as well as the knobby stem attached to the tuberous main root. Each nodule that is on the stem will represent about one year of growth. The buyer will want to see the age of the plant and the older the plant the more valuable it is. As of the winter of 2007, ginseng sold for about $76.00 a pound for fresh, undamaged roots.
The roots usually do not grow straight down but at a 45 degree angle and the main taproot may be forked with lots of small branched rootlets. Wash the roots but do not scrub them squeaky clean. Dealers like to see some soil on the root ring and it usually enhances its value.
Spread the cleaned roots on a piece of cloth or drying rack in the shade. Never dry the roots in the sun because they will turn the roots yellow, which will lower the value. Drying time will varies with root size and the humidity of the air. Large roots may take up to four weeks to dry and small root may only take a few days. Turn them once a day and look for any mold that may be starting to grow. Store the roots in a dry location with good air flow prior to selling them to a dealer or for personnel use.
Happy Treasure Hunting.
By: David Cowley
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