The story behind ginseng is as remarkable as the root itself. In Ginseng, the Divine Root (Algonquin Books, 2006), David A. Taylor tracks the path of this fascinating plant — from the forests east of the Mississippi to the bustling streets of Hong Kong and the remote corners of China. It should be noted that the future viability of wild American ginseng is at risk because of several factors, including over harvesting and loss of habitat. Be careful about where you purchase American ginseng, and only buy it from companies that sustainably harvest this amazing medicinal plant. Use the Winter-Melon Soup Recipe in the following excerpt for your next big meal.
Winter-Melon Soup Recipe
• 2 pounds winter melon (dong gua, a melon with pale, sweet flesh found in Asian groceries)
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 6 cups chicken stock
• 1 small ginseng root
• 4 ounces straw mushrooms
• 1/3 cup shredded, cooked chicken breast
• 2 slices fresh ginger, peeled
• 1/4 cup cooked or canned crabmeat
• 1/4 cup canned asparagus tips, drained
• 6 dried lotus nuts, soaked and peeled, with the hard core removed
• Cilantro leaves
Look for a winter melon that will hold at least 6 cups of liquid. Cut off the top. (If the melon is very large, slice it in half so that half will hold the soup.) Remove the melon’s central fiber and seeds. Scrape out some of the flesh, leaving a layer about 3/4-inch thick still clinging to the inside. Sprinkle the inside with salt and put the melon in a large deep pan with enough boiling water to cover it. Simmer for 30 minutes, drain, and place it in a large steamer; steam for another 30 minutes. Bring the stock to a boil and pour it into the melon; cover and steam for 25 minutes. Add the ginseng and other ingredients and serve. Add some of the winter-melon flesh, scraped out with a spoon, when ladling the soup into individual bowls. Garnish with cilantro.
Find out more about this spectacular herb: Read American Ginseng: History, Hunting and Uses.
From Ginseng, the Divine Root: The Curious History of the Plant that Captivated the World by David A. Taylor. © 2006 by David A. Taylor. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. All rights reserved.