Growing Wild Ginseng

Meet the North Carolina man who is slowly realizing his vision to plant a hillside in wild ginseng.

| September/October 1984

  • organic ginseng - flower heads
    The bright red berries of organic ginseng.
    Photo by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • organic ginseng - leaves and flowers
    Healthy organic ginseng plants.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • organic ginseng - bee on flower head
    A bee pollinates a ginseng flower head.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • organic ginseng - handful of seeds
    A handful of seeds.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • organic ginseng - man with tray of roots
    Buyers insist that roots be bone-dry when shipped, so it's important to get rid of all the moisture in your crop. Oscar places his harvest on racks in a room heated by a wood stove, and dries the roots, slowly, keeping an eye out for signs of mold.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • organic ginseng - man with hoe
    Oscar works a planting bed.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff
  • organic ginseng - hand holding root
    A healthy ginseng root.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • organic ginseng - flower heads
  • organic ginseng - leaves and flowers
  • organic ginseng - bee on flower head
  • organic ginseng - handful of seeds
  • organic ginseng - man with tray of roots
  • organic ginseng - man with hoe
  • organic ginseng - hand holding root

My friend Oscar Wood has grown wild ginseng for ten years on a steep, wooded hillside near the top of Balsam Mountain in western North Carolina. This past season Oscar sold his organic 'sang for $60 a pound, while most everyone else (including me) was pleased to get $50. He estimates that his good beds produce about 30 pounds (or $1,800 worth) per 1,000 square feet.

I work hard all through the growing season to nurture my plants and to protect them from potential problems. But Oscar just sits back (well, he does pluck some weeds from his beds once in a while) and lets his 'sang grow naturally. He tolerates some crop damage from disease and therefore may harvest a few pounds less per acre; but on the other hand, he avoids the considerable expense of chemical fertilizers, fungicides, and insecticides — and he gets a premium price for his organically grown roots.

I asked Oscar to explain how he does it. Once he'd settled himself deep in his favorite recliner, he freely shared his knowledge and experience.

Oscar's Start

"After I got crippled up and couldn't work reg'lar, I had to find somethin' to do," explained Mr. Wood. "I was lyin' in bed one morning, and like a vision, I pictured the whole hilltop back of the house covered up with ginseng! I got up, and my wife asked me what I was goin' to do. I said I was fixin' to go 'sang diggin', replant it, and start growin' it on our mountain.



"I ate my breakfast and took off. Hunted till noon and hadn't found one bunch. I was restin' on top of a ridge when I spied a black snake coiled by the side of a stump. I reached down with my hoe to move the critter, and right there stood a four-pronged bunch of ginseng. I looked again, and there stood another big bunch.

"I dug 118 roots off that ridge in two hours. I 'bout give out, so I gathered the 'sang up and brought it home, rested awhile, and then planted it. I spent two more days diggin' at the ridge, and then hunted for plants all over that area that fall, which was in 1974.

kimberly
1/12/2018 12:08:04 PM

where would i get my seeds from?







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