I was taught how to hunt "Sang" by a friend of mine in his seventies who who had been hunting for the better part of his life. He has regaled me with stories of cresting a hill and looking down into a gully in the woods and seeing "berries...nothin' but berries as far as we could see up and down the gully. Once, in one of them gullies, we dug almost 60 pounds of wet root, one of our best single digs ever!"
North American Ginseng
In those days, he was getting between $60 - $100 per pound of dried root. Just to give you an idea, it takes three pounds of wet root yo dry down to one pound of dry root. Even at that, it was a good haul and the work was a lot of fun, difficult, but fun, with a good friend along, it was even better.
I was over at his place one afternoon, enjoying some icy cold adult beverages, and he told he was through hunting. He had saved just over $100,000 from his sales each year. In addition, he had the kitchen redone for his wife's birthday, bought several new shotguns and LOTS of fishing gear, a boat and trailer and a couple of new pickups.
My first season's harvest under my tutor's guidance
I begged hym to hang with it for at least another year to teach me. An agreement was made, and he would do it! That first season, with his woods lore and friendship, and an additional two more seasons hunting with him, I learned how to do it and do it sustainably. Since that first year, the ginseng numbers have at least tripled on our hillsides due to intelligent harvesting and a lot of seeding and re-seeding. What you see above went for just about $1100 a pound. That was a nice chunk of change for the farm that year! My second season was even better!
There were several things I learned what NOT to do by watching my tutor do them. Taking plants from places where you know you won't be able to remove the whole root because of roots, rocks, or trees. And don't harvest the young plants. Generally speaking, it takes seven years for a ginseng plant to grow to it's potential. However, the older it gets, the larger it gets, the more powerful that plant becomes. so leave the damned little ones alone! And always, always, always plant the berries from the plant you just harvested!
I harvest sustainably here, taking only the largest and healthiest plants I find. I plant hundreds of seed berries each season. And the plants are coming back beautifully! As long as the market stays down far enough to make it too much work to harvest (by nature, poachers are lazy bastards), I don't have much to worry about with poachers.
The last couple of years, I have learned much from a mentor on the merits of ginseng, He is from Marathon County, Wisconsin and is solely responsible for that county being number in the entire country for the production of commercial American Ginseng. He has taught me well, so well in fact, next year I am going to make, or more clearly, I'll probably cajole Mary into making his ginseng soap. He gave us a couple of bars for Christmas two or three years ago. To me soap is soap, I don't care what it is as long as it does what it's supposed to. But this ginseng soap is different. You can feel it work, actually feel it tingle as it cleans deeply. By golly, it's good soap!
Dried ginseng leaves, Numi organic green tea, our own lemon balm ready to go into tea bags
We harvest only the ginseng we need for tinctures, extracts and teabags. The rest is allowed to grow in the environment it loves. Because of these sustainable practices, we are healthier, happier and the woods we love are even prettier. As luck would have it, we do have teabags and loose ginseng for sale. Just message us on Facebook.
How about a few more benefits of ginseng?