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THE AMERICAN GINSENG MANUAL
This is one of the greatest treatises on American Wild Ginseng ever written by The undisputed Master, George Bryant.
Everything is covered here, from ginseng hunting tecniques to gathering seeds to planting to growing, to disease control, to marketing to seed striation ..... on and on and on ........
For the enlightenment of my customers and visitors. ENJOY!
The American Ginseng Manual
My Dear Reader:
It has been a great pleasure preparing this manual on ginseng. While busy writing, I
could easily recall to memory many thrilling moments experienced and such
moments are worth remembering.
I have not tried to bring these words to you with high sounding phrases, nor
enticing words, but I've written it like I would talk to you, were we sitting on a log in
Ginseng is, essentially, a forest plant. Let us consider it always as such. If you
receive any benefit from this manual in learning one of God's wild creations of the
vegetable world, it is my sincere desire to wish you success in learning all the various
wildlings which have been bestowed upon us, to aid us in our life upon this earth.
Yours for the outdoors, George Bryant.
CHAPTER 1: THE PLANT, GINSENG
Among Nature's most highly esteemed and eagerly sought after medicinal plants in
the eastern United States is the ginseng plant. This wild plant grows in the cool,
moist hardwood slopes of hillock and ravine. The trees to which it is most likely a
neighbor are the linwood, butternut, ash, maple, and trees of a similar nature. It
makes it's home along the bluffs and river cliffs where cover and soil conditions are
Many old timers who hunted the root when it was plentiful found it growing in
patches. Today, however, the patches are far apart and few in number. The type of
plant growth will direct you to favorable places which might harbor choice plants.
Where blood-root, wild ginger, may-apple, and such plants grow profusely is a good
place to hunt ginseng. Where these plants are scarce, you will find ginseng scarce,
Lands that have been cultivated, or lie below cultivated ground will suffer from
having the soil wash over the leafy carpet, and kill out the plants that grew naturally
there. So it is not altogether the ginseng diggers fault that plants are scarce, since so
much land has been cleared away, to give the farmer a chance to till the soil.
The virgin stands of hardwood timber, while hard to find these days, are the best
places to locate ginseng. It grows, too, in second-growth thickets, where conditions
pertaining to the soil are right. Few old timers probably gave future propagation a
thought. Conservation to them mostly consisted of conserving life. If those old
timers had planted back the seeds of the plants of ginseng they found, there would
be a much better wild crop in existence. It is a notable fact they didn't. Perhaps it
worked the best for those who experimented in ginseng culture. Expert ginseng
diggers used to hunt out the woods for miles. Days were spent at walking and
digging, often taking flour and bacon along, coming home every few days with all
that they could carry of choice roots. Possibly they saw ginseng growing in patches
that, with the present high prices the root brings, would make our eyes stand or bug
out. But root prices were low in those days. It took a monstrous pile of nice roots to
bring much money. There was the element though we must remember, while the
roots and wages were low, the cost of living was low, too. That is a big factor of
consideration these days.
The natural range where ginseng is found reaches out from Maine westward to
Minnesota and southward to the highlands of practically all the southern states
except Florida Ginseng is also found growing wild in southern Canada. Southern
Ontario and Quebec is also in the belt.
Within this range you will find it growing wild in all its former haunts. The welldrained
areas, where there are hardwoods, except where dug out and exterminated.
The old time hunters, or the hunters of the old days, made large hauls and so the
plant was known to be getting scarce in the wild regions, where it grew naturally.
The price commenced to go up-ward. This started far-sighted men into the game of
ginseng gardening. Enterprising men in Oregon transplanted ginseng and found it
to do well there.
Back in the year of 1858 roots were selling around 52c a pound. This was in the
"good ole 'senging days." From this low price when wild roots were plentiful the
price per pound commenced to rise until between 1896 and 1898 the price was
averaging around $4.70 a pound. Wild plants, were becoming scarce, the Chinese
were willing to pay more money. In a decade the advance was to $7.00. The price
per pound sent men after the plant in earnest. The wild product was dug far and
wide. Like gold, men probably thought of the value-not the abundance. However, at
least a certain quantity is essential to give sufficient returns to pay.
When American exportation of ginseng ceased, the Chinese became interested in
buying. Enough was wanted to satisfy their needs, the price advanced as it grew
more hard to find growing wild. With the price of ginseng advancing, more diggers
entered the woods than ever. The search far and wide was made, dwindling the
supply even more.
Just after the turn of the century, enterprising men in the states of Ohio, Michigan,
Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota, Kentucky and Indiana began to experimentally
cultivate the plant. As these men learned the right methods and under what
conditions to grow the ginseng plant, they increased the size of their beds and
planted extra plots until, not long afterwards, that the cultivated supply exceeded
the wild. By 1913 the plants root had grown to the value of $7.50 per pound.
It was following the First World's War that the root prices soared skyward.
Gradually the price subsided until during the depression period the price was very
low. Toward World War Two the price commenced to increase slowly. However,
when war was declared all exportations ceased. The Chinese got no American
ginseng, or very little if any. All outgoing commerce had to be important. It was
during this period that prices again sank. Dealers could only hold the roots
speculatively hoping for a higher price when the war ended. Sure enough, not long
after the end of the war the price doubled. In 1946 the root of the wild was worth
$15.50 per pound. This is in Kentucky, for Kentucky ginseng. It would be the
author's belief that farther north, the price would be higher. Especially for choice,
Ginseng that has been cultivated under conditions similar to the wild, without
maturing and rushing its growth, commands a good price. While we look back and
see that there were periods when the root prices were very discouraging, there is a
pertinent fact. As an average, the price has been at least, in the author's opinion, on
a par with other vegetables and crops.
There have been times when the Korean roots have sold for $50 to $100 per root. It
is said the Chinese prefer the roots to resemble the human body.
A distinct pleasure is to be had, tramping the hills, searching for the plants. The
small thickets sometimes turn up quantities of wild ginseng often unbelievable.
CHAPTER 2: WHERE TO GROW GINSENG
Ginseng can be grown almost anywhere in the temperate zone. It grows naturally in
the eastern half of the United States, from southern Canada on southward to the
north parts of the Gulf states, and within this zone there is a wide variety of climate.
Ginseng also grows wild in some parts of Japan, Manchuria, and China, and similar
regions. Out in the west coast states ginseng does all right when planted from
eastern seeds, especially it is said that the soil of Oregon is adapted to its culture.
The wild supply of ginseng rapidly diminished from an accelerated increase of
digging just after the turn of 1900. Many farsighted men envisioned the plant would
soon be a thing of the past out in the forest regions and commenced to grow it.
The Chinese consider ginseng a cure-all and it is used to some extent in making tea.
It is not a rare thing to find a China-man carrying a root for a charm.
In raising ginseng it should never be fertilized for fast growth. This produces a root
that does not resemble wild roots, therefore brings a lower price. When the roots
are grown slowly with only natural fertilizer, which is rotted leaves and wood dust,
the roots bring a better price than quicker grown ones and the higher prices paid
for the slowly grown type would prove sufficient compensation for the smaller
quantity. The only fertilizer it really needs is of the natural type, rich woods loam.
Many beginners in the culture of this forest plant are enthused over the high price
per pound and dive head-long into a "ginseng enterprise" for their fortune without
serious thought and study.
It is impossible to learn too much and hours of study coupled with the right choice
of garden spot are needed. We cannot urge you too seriously to "feel your way" by
starting small and advancing as you learn. There are other considerations that you
should study. It is not all profit and it requires from five to seven years for the roots
to reach marketable size.
Ginseng cannot be grown in the sun. It must have shade as a protection. In the
artificial shade that is made to protect the garden, there is the cost of lumber
materials for its construction. Posts, runners, laths, etc. are needed. The cost will
depend of course, on the scarcity or abundance of the lumber.
Indisputably, the finest gardens are made in the natural environment of ginseng.
The beginner will do well to consider this. By planting a plot each season you will
then have a regular income after you begin the harvest, by transplanting every year.
Too, your expenses are not so great at one time. Just the amount necessary for the
plot, be it a small area or a quarter acre. Ginseng grown in the natural forest bed
will command much greater, more choice prices than its cultivation under artificial
shade. There is the disadvantage, however, that unless watched carefully, it may be
stolen. This could mean a heavy blow to the man who has invested his life savings in
The garden started from plants may be set out either spring or fall. Seed planted
this fall will come up the second spring, as it requires close to twenty-one months to
see it emerge from its bed. In the United States we find the most valuable ginseng
comes from the northern tier of the eastern states, from the natural forests of beech,
poplar and maple. Along in the spring of 1919 following the first World War, the
wild roots from these states sold for $1.25 per ounce. That's a high price. It is
readily seen the best ginseng gardens must be located in such states as New York,
Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, also the northern portions of Ohio. However, this
is no indication a garden cannot or will not show fine profits for time and invested
expense elsewhere. Possibly it grows faster in the more southern states. Or the
conditions may be more ideal, presenting a better situation for ginseng cultivation.
There are always plenty of buyers.
During the months of May, June, and July, about four pounds of the green root is
needed to weigh out one pound of dry, while later in the season when moisture
somewhat leaves the maturing plant, three pounds or therabouts of green will dry
out a pound of dry. The difference is in the state the root is in when dug, whether
full of sap or dried in mature growth.
Ginseng easily suffers from sun-stroke. It will not thrive long if too much sun shines
on it. If the shade is altered so too much is removed so the rays of the sun can creep
onto its well-formed emerald head, it will perish.
The author once found a 32 year old stalk of ginseng that measured 13 1/2 inches
from tip to tip of root, growing out in the sun on an east slope of a deep cut ravine.
But the sun only kissed it a few hours each day.
CHAPTER 3: GINSENG LORE
Wild ginseng is found in many sections of the U. S. and some parts of Canada. It is
likely to be found on any slope if the soil and trees are suitable to its growth.
It grows sparingly in the evergreen forests, from lack of mulching. You seldom
encounter the plant in oak woods, due to the tough leaves choking it out in its young
days. Neither will you find it in quantities on high, dry ridges. Ginseng prefers the
shade of maple, ash, linwood, butternut, and the hardwoods grow in soil to which it
is suited. Where the soil is clay is likely land. Ginseng also inhabits rich, moist
hollows with high shades as its natural home. It is often found in thickets, brush
patches, sink-holes, over-grown fence rows, cut-over woods, along ravines, on cliffs
Frequently you will find it growing in patches, where it has not been hunted for
quite some time, but as a rule it will be situated a stalk here, another there.
In forests of hardwoods with oak trees predominating you will find the leaves are
often too tough for the tender seedling plants to struggle through, so it would appear
such a locality would offer poor ground for either digging or growing unless
preventative measures were taken. Other trees that have softer leaves will cause
little resistance to young ginseng growth in spring-time, when they are coming up.
The quick or slow growth of ginseng will depend much on the richness of the loam
in which it is found. The richest forest loam will not produce robust plants. But of
course soil that is rich will naturally grow ginseng faster, to a larger size in a given
number of years, than poorer soil. Like cultivated crops the farmer grows if weeds
or brush are thick, the crop is apt to smother and choke from lack of plant food and
sufficient water. The root will mature slowly. The vitality of the plant is "sapped"
causing slow growth.
When planting ginseng in natural woods, you can keep it free of bushes, weeds, etc.
and it grows fast. Even though the price per pound is lower, the accelerated growth
more than pays. Be sure the soil is rich, the richer the better. Ginseng that
ordinarily would take 25 to 30 years to mature in poor, weedy, "'sapped soil" will
mature in from 5 to 7 years.
The roots of ginseng are from white to a sort of reddish yellow. You can accurately
tell the plants age by counting the notches on the rootstock. The plan will die off
this fall and in the spring a new bud will come out on the opposite side, first one side
then the other, until dug.
The size of ginseng will vary all the way, from a seedling of three leaves and a few
inches tall to a giant of the species up to two and a half feet high. The stalk is
slender and rises to where it forks. It is here in the center of the fork the blossoms
form in May and June and later seeds which in early fall turn to scarlet, denoting
they are ripe, ready to be gathered from the cultivated beds. When found thus in
the wild areas, the seeds should be taken off and planted about 6 inches apart and
covered well with leaves and rich loam. This assures a good future crop.
One-year-old plants of ginseng have no fork on the stem but a single stem with three
leaves at the top. The two-year-old plant will sometimes be forked with the same
number of leaves on each prong. A two-year-old plant will bear no berries or seeds
for reproduction. A three years old plant will put forth a few seeds and will have
two, or if rich soil has made the plant thrifty, it may sport three prongs, and may
have three or five leaves on each prong. As a general rule, you will find all ginseng
plants over three years old, will have three prongs, reaching out from the fork of the
stem. In some rare cases there will be more than three. There will be five leaf-lets
to each prong; the two nearest the center of the plant smaller than the other three.
Ginseng roots are dug of varied shapes and sizes.
CHAPTER 4: FACTS ABOUT GINSENG
Northern ginseng roots found wild or grown semi-wild bring higher prices than
southern wild or cultivated. The reason is unknown. Some writers conjecture the
southern roots, generally dug by not-too-well-informed hillsmen, are not properly
cared for as the more northern type. Often most southern people who dig the roots
are poor and lacking in instruction of careful handling which is necessary for
Assuming the same size roots are dug and handled identically the same while drying
it is reasonable to speculate that those from the southern states where it grows
would in price favorably compare with northern ginseng. Too often the southern
digger will come in from a day's hunt and string them up by running a threaded
needle through them, hanging behind the cooking stove, where they gather dust and
soot. In appearance it does not compare well, when ready for shipping, with roots
that have been handled with care and the right methods. As a rule, when small
quantities are to be dried, it should be washed, allowed to drain a short while, then
placed in an airy dry place on paper until thoroughly dry. Too often this procedure
is not followed. Thus the low prices. It is possible there may be more young, small
roots among the shipments arriving' from the south-land than the northern diggers
allow to be in their collections. This could materially interfere with good prices per
The natural home of ginseng is among hardwoods such as ash, beech, maple,
butternut, and mixtures such as wild cherry, thorn, red-bud, and hackberry will be
found among the other growth, where ginseng is known to grow. Occasionally a
stalk may be found in among evergreens or where oaks grow, though the leaves of
the evergreen are too small to furnish cover for the roots and the leaves of the oak
are too tough.
The plant of the ginseng matures in the fall. The seeds ripen in late summer. Along
in August and September before the leaves fall, the seeds drop to the ground, which
is Nature's way of caring for Her own. The leaves covering the seeds offer
protection. The seeds are kept from freezing by this mulch. The seeds do not come
up the following spring but the second spring a stem shoots up with three leaves. Of
course the enemies of ginseng seed may get in a telling blow. Birds and squirrels
may eat the seeds before they fall. Mice may get them after they are covered with
leaves. The same is true of moles.
The second year, if the seeds survive, the plant will have three leaves and may be
eight inches tall. It is- not unusual for ginseng to grow to be two or more feet high.
But as a rule twenty inches or less is a good average for the cultivated stalks, while
the larger sizes are somewhat rare in the woods. Hunters usually find them before
they grow very old or of much size, except in out-of-the-way localities and on rare
Being a perennial, dying down in the fall, reviving in the spring, a scar is left each
time the plant dies off. However, when a stalk grows very old, the chance of judging
its age is less accurate than when young, because the top may be eaten off by mice,
and even a part of the rootstock, though it may not appear so. The plant would be
older than it actually appears.
If you want to know the age of a ginseng plant count the scars. Each scar denotes
one year's growth. From one year to the next the scars appear on opposite sides
thus permitting easy counting. There is also the possibility the plant will have laid
dormant some seasons, failing to come up. Often while digging wild ginseng the
writer has found one or 'more roots of nice size that had not put forth a top that
summer. Why they lie dormant is probably not known. it is not our place to delve
into the "why" of life as the Creator puts it forth, lest we be found to pry into His
work where we ought not.
Ginseng digging offers pleasant and profitable work for the individual who loves
Nature. Jaunts over the hills, along the bluffs and cliffs are exhilarating and
healthful. Those who try it as a rule get "bit by the bug" and you'll see them every
summer, when the leaves begin to color up, wending their steps forest-ward. They
are going in quest of wild root beds.
In the early days the prices for roots were low. The wild plant growing unmolested
was often found in patches. While it is impossible for the plant to "bed" by
spreading of the roots, the seeds dropping nearby would keep coming up.
Gradually a bed of sizable dimensions would be there. Few men bothered with
gathering it then.
In the deep mountain areas, especially in the southern regions, there are women
hunters. They get as much fun and kick out of digging it as the men. They reap the
benefit of healthful walks along with the lucrative returns.
Practically all of China's four hundred million population who can raise the price
use ginseng. The grades run from the cheapest, which comes from Japan, to the
highest priced roots coming from the Korean's carefully guarded gardens.
While out searching for the plant it has been rare when the author ever found it
growing close to water in ponds or swamps but it many times has been found at the
base of cliffs and bluffs next to rivers. This stately plant also grows down close to
streams that rush down steep grades or washes, but drainage is good here. There is
no indication of there being stagnant water near. Else ginseng would not grow.
In its natural home ginseng is found only where the shade is sufficient to prevent its
taking on a sallow color. You will note the shade is such as to not totally form a
solid mat over the place where the plant grows but the rays of sunshine that
penetrates are broken by the swaying and moving foliage of the trees. Enough sun
goes through the leafy covering to prevent the ginseng plant from becoming too
damp, which would probably cause rot, where it grows in beds. The growth over
ginseng ranges from small bushes and briars to high leafy boughed tree-tops. You
will find it growing most frequent in clay soil, as it seems to prefer this to sandy soil.
In sandy areas you are most likely to find evergreens flourishing.
The seeds of northern ginseng often require around seventy-five hundred to weigh a
pound. Ginseng seeds maturing in the southland, being smaller, may need as many
as ten thousand to the pound. When buying seeds for your own garden plot, you
will likely buy by the thousand.
Twenty or thirty years ago, or slightly longer, ginseng was considered a plant that
could not be cultivated. It is surprising to note what men with patience have learned
about its culture. Men have experimented, watching it in its natural bed, until it has
been grown in many states. Cultivated roots grow much faster than wild ones do
and can be marketed many years earlier. This is an advantage worthy of mention.
It has been proven that when ginseng is grown under the same conditions as wild is
grown, as near as it is possible to duplicate it, better prices per pound is the result
and a larger income from the garden. A rich loamy soil is always best when
considering the location of a ginseng garden.
The plant does not like low ground and the potential gardener can 'save himself
much grief by avoiding placing his garden in such a location. A slope that faces the
north is probably the best though apt to be little better than an east slope. Try to
locate where the soil is rich and clayey, well drained. There are a diversity of soil
types and textures throughout the whole of the United States. It would be wrong to
condemn a certain type soil as unsuitable just because ginseng does not grow there
in the wild.
Try ginseng cultivation in a small way, experimentally at first. Pay close attention
to the natural requirements and attempt a duplication of the same. If the soil is too
clayey, it is advisable to mix in leaf mold, rotted wood and rotted sawdust. This will
give it a lighter texture and it will not be so gluey and unsuited for a garden plot.
Remove all sticks and rocks, all matter of an extraneous nature that does not add to
the benefit of the garden spot. Ginseng is slow 'in growth, for the author has found
wild roots barely larger than a thimble which were over thirty years old. To our
knowledge, there is no other plant that grows so slow.
The Chinese often carry a root of the ginseng as a charm to ward off evil. Those
financially able make a tea of the roots. While is seems to be held in a superstitious
way by many Chinamen, this may not be so. The scientists of medical fame declare
there is no or little value to ginseng as a medicine. However, be that as it may, the
author has seen instances where people seem to have been helped by its use. A
woman lay groaning from acute indigestion. She had been suffering for hours. A
piece of ginseng root was chewed. It had barely been two minutes before she was
much quieter and then minutes later at ease. It has a soothing effect on the nerves
when the dried root is chewed.
Prices paid for cultivated roots on an average is several dollars below that paid for
the wild. The Chinese can instantly tell the difference by tasting. In the quick
growth as has been the case where gardens have been fertilized and the root
"pushed" for size, the roots are invariably more smooth and larger for their age.
With the plant grown by natural cultivation, the way that imitates the wild, in the
natural environment of ginseng, with no manure used other than the natural type
(which is leaf mold, rotted tree dust, etc.) no American nor Chinaman can discern
CHAPTER 5: LOCATING A NATURAL GARDEN
The natural home of ginseng would be hard to improve upon for location of a semiwild
root garden. One of the finest is to choose a situation where the slope levels out
to a less steep bench, extending quite a ways each way on the slope. The area should
be large enough for your gardens.
Among poplar, beach, maple, dogwood, linwood, butternut is fine. The
undergrowth is cleared away and the trees trimmed high enough so you do not have
to bend to stand in the garden. A high shade is what is wanted so air can circulate
Many who are thinking of entering the cultivation of ginseng as an enterprise are
told not to select for their garden a location on a south slope because it gets hot there
where the direct sun's summer rays can shine upon it. The garden that is located on
a south slope where the breeze can freely move about over it is all right. Ginseng
grows in forests along the south slopes, especially toward the bottoms. In narrow
ravines it grows on the lower third of the south slope, or bluff, so we might rightly
assume the same to be fine for growing the plant, if no better is obtainable. The
drawback seems to be that all south slopes the writer has been over and noted
closely had a surplus of rocks, while the other slopes were much less plentifully
imbued with them.
The writer's choice for selecting a location in the woods for a natural garden would
be where ginseng grew wild in the past. While the old ginseng digger could pick a
spot that would prove ideal, it might be harder for the city man. That is why
trappers and hunters, used to seeing the plant in the woods, make the best
gardeners, as a general rule.
The ginseng Plant is a wild plant changed little by cultivation. Please bear this in
mind. While many plants respond readily to cultivation, ginseng does not. While
yet in a "garden" it is still untamable and wild. Taking a plant accustomed to the
deep shade of the woodland and placing it out in the sun, could only result in failure
to have it continue life.
As mentioned before, a clay loam will be found to be all right, whether black or red
or sandy. The ginseng plant and root will be affected markedly by any differences
of soil. Good drainage is essential. Some growers when constructing their beds lay a
drain tile under them to assure proper elimination of water, which is a worthwhile
idea. The ground could be made lighter so as to allow water to seep through faster
by mixing in leaf mold, etc. Some sand mixed in, if absent, will give the ground
The ginseng plant blooms in June and has a pale green cluster of blossoms. It is
here where the blossoms are that later the seed head forms. The berries will be
clustered and each berry will contain from 2 to 3 seeds. The seeds are flat and hard.
These seeds turn a lovely crimson when the fall months roll around. In September
you can find them in their beauty. When fully matured, bird's have mot eaten them,
they fall to the ground beneath the plant, if sloping to roll a few inches or feet
downward. Nature protects them by later sending down the lovely colored foliage of
the forest trees to keep them from freezing. Otherwise they could not reproduce.
How protective Nature is! She cares for all of her children.
The seeds from the cultivated garden plot should be gathered as they ripen and
sowed in a carefully pulverized bed where the young seedlings are to be grown.
Some growers get their start by buying seeds and sowing, trans-planting the two
year old plants to the garden where they will be until old enough for sale. If you
wish to retain the seeds, keep in a container which has been filled 'with clean, damp
sand. Here they will keep and remain "alive" until ready for use.
The use of heavy manuring has been chiefly the cause of much disease. Manuring,
while it pushes the plants up into vigorous growth and causes the root to attain large
size, it is inadvisable due to the fact the Chinese do not like the type roots that grow
fast. A short, thick root is what is in most demand, year in and year out.
Experimentation shows that working the beds deep and mixing manure all through
it has proved the roots grow long and slim, a condition that places the salable parts
of the plant (the roots), in the "'poor quality" bracket, with relatively poor prices
The beds should be higher in the middle than at the edges. You may use boards to
hold the beds above the surrounding ground. They drain best this way. Out in the
woods if you have dug ginseng, you will remember the root is quite deep. When you
transplant the seedlings set them likewise. By imitating the way it grows in the
woods, you will merely help yourself by not only growing better quality roots but,
besides, have less trouble with diseases bothering the beds.
A distance of from two to three inches from the surface of the ground to the end of
the rootstock, is not too, deep to set ginseng. You can spade out a furrow deep
enough to contain the roots, while sitting up, in the direction you want to run the
rows. Lay the plants against the side 8 inches apart along the furrow, then care
fully cover the root to the depth given above, without damage to the top or rootlets.
The rows should be 8 inches apart so that the permanent beds have ginseng set 8
inches each way. This does not crowd, yet is sufficiently close to give a good yield
from the cultivated bed. If closer, disease may be encouraged by too shaded, damp
ground. To get the rows furrowed the right distance apart, you can lay an 8 inch
board almost against the first row transplanted, dig your furrow with shovel or
spade at opposite side of hoard, set out roots, move board, again dig just in front of
the board. This insures uniform, straight rows. You will find that transplanting the
two year old plants to be the best.
When preparing the seedbeds, work up the bed fine, with plenty of leaf mold. Most
cultivators of ginseng use a seedbed for growing the plants from seed to two year
olds. They are then transplanted into permanent beds, to stay until sizable enough
to dig and market. In the seedbed make the rows six inches apart, drill seeds one
inch apart. The rows should be an inch deep. You must cover the seeds well with
well-rotted leaf mold. Some growers pulverize horse manure, but though the
growth is fast, the advice due to possible complications that may set in makes its use
debatable. This prepared seedbed is for growing the seedlings. In transplanting, all
roots over a certain length, say five inches, should be trimmed off to a uniform size,
so that all marketable roots, a few years later, will be started from the right size.
The best time to sow ginseng seeds is in September and October. This is also the
best time for transplanting from the seedbed to the garden.
As a general rule a southern slope requires more shade than a level or North slope.
Also southern exposures sprout up all types of plants before the north slopes warm
up enough to thaw out. Ginseng would be no exception. Springing its head into
view too quickly by appearing too early, it may get its head nipped by the freezes or
chilly frost. On a later slope, such as the north, ginseng would be later peering
above the leaves, looking upon the dawn of warm weather.
Lay out the plans for your garden beds. Have walks between each bed wide enough
to walk easily on. You will sit here, too, while pulling the weeds from among the
ginseng plants. The walkway between the beds should be from eighteen inches to
two feet wide, depending upon your own personal choice. Also be careful the bed is
not made so wide you have difficulty reaching the middle from either side. It is not
recommended that you get out on the beds at any time unless absolutely necessary.
As a suggested size, from which you can work your own ideas, the beds can be from
five to six feet wide and as long as convenient, or the length desired. With a six foot
width and a two foot path, posts set eight feet apart would provide for a bed and
If the framework, provided to shade the garden is constructed over the top and
sides, are to be of laths, it is made of approximate size to fasten or place them on.
Around the sides, the laths should be stood on end, nailed that way, about one-half
to an inch apart. Those overhead should be closer together. By having the laths
wider around the sides, more air currents are allowed, which is beneficial. Always
remember with artificial shade it is important that it be built high enough 50 you
can stand upright, as it would be unhandy staying bent over while working.
In the opinion of the author, the less stirring around the roots, the better it will be
for the garden. Refrain from any attempt to cultivate as you would do with
vegetables and other farm crops. All that's really necessary is to keep the beds free
from weeds. If trees surround the "garden" laths on the sides will not be essential.
Whether planning a garden under artificial shade or out in the woods, it is best to
get the ground inside the selected bed site in the best possible shape for planting the
seeds and transplanting the two year old plants. Grub up young growth not
essential for shade and plow or spade up the ground. Around the bed edges you
should run boards set on edge or set stones in a shallow ditch, so the mulch will hold
better and your beds will be elevated above the path between the beds.
For the artificial shading, you can make frames to cover with laths, that fit together
and can be easily removed in the fall, when not needed any more, and this prevents
rotting and doubles the life of the laths. In the spring they can be placed hack to
shade the plants from the sun. The frames in fall are stored away where it is dry.
Leaves to form a mulch is placed on the beds in fall.
While the best time for transplanting is in the fall, after natural wild ginseng seed
has ripened, you can do it when most convenient in springtime. When the two year
old plants have come up, or even before, after the ground has warmed up, prepare
the permanent beds, remove a few of the roots at a time, then quickly as possible set
them out, so they do not dry out badly. The process is repeated until all plants have
been transferred that is wanted. This is much better than digging the whole bed
and allowing some of the roots and plants to dry out, rendering them less healthy.
If you have covered the beds too heavily, in the spring it might prove best to remove
a part of the mulch, so as to allow the plants easier coming up. However, never
remove all the covering. If the winter has been dry the plant coming through the
soil, much like a bean, sometimes has a difficult time getting up. At this time, watch
your beds. When any plant seems "earth bound" you will be helping a lot by
loosening the soil around the plant. This will allow it to stand upright. When the
ground is made loose around the ginseng plant it will be out in a few days and
nothing need be done to it, such as "straightening it up" or "helping it up."
When using the removable artificial shade frames, they can be left off until the
leaves begin to come out on the trees, which is similar to the way it would be with
wild ginseng beds (as it grows wild out in the forest). Along about May first is a
good time. If the spring is hot and dry by all means shade the plants much earlier
but if cool and damp, by leaving the shade off later the beds will have more chance
to dry out and be in better shape for summer growth, and slacken the likelihood of
The prospective ginseng gardener should by all means avail himself of any
opportunity to visit any ginseng garden which might be within traveling distance of
his home. The sight of artificial beds, shades, etc., will enlighten anyone, even more
than an explanation could. The experience is absolutely necessary.
As a suggested size, from which you can work your own ideas, the beds can be from
five to six feet wide and as long as convenient, or the length desired. With a six foot
width and a two foot path, posts set eight feet apart would provide for a bed and
The prospective ginseng gardener she misfortunes you will encounter will be just as
detrimental as other disobedience's you may act under. With the shade too heavy
the root will grow slow, the stem be much too thin, the leaves too slender. Fungi
attacks the top, so sunlight is necessary to fight against this disease.
Too much sun will be equally disastrous. Find the right quota of sun and shade by
studying it in its wild habitat. When the mulch over the root is heavy, so that the
root remains cool in hottest weather, the plant will stand considerable sun. Ginseng
grown without mulching is time wasted. Diseases soon attack the beds. The healthy
plant will be bothered with few diseases. And to have healthy plants, we arrive back
where we started from. The garden must be favorable, not unlike the wild situation,
where the plant grows. It grows in superb health in the forest. Make the garden
like the forest, that is, provide sunlight, shade, well-drained soil, plenty of air
circulation, etc., and it will do well in the cultivated beds.
If the ground where you plan your garden is lacking in richness, apply not fertilizer
nor stable manure but the natural, loose, black loam from the forest, where logs
have rotted down or stumps have disintegrated. This is natural fertilizer. It cannot
hurt the root. Unnatural manure's to speed growth can only do harm. Decaying
woods matter is highly beneficial to add every year to your garden plot or beds.
This enriches it, keeps it fertile.
The rotted sawdust around old sawmills is good covering, makes some of the finest
mulching. The best leaves for covering are those that rot easily, such as butternut,
linwood (basswood), maples, beech, and similar. Leaves of the oak are tough and
should not be used. They are slow to rot and form a favorable mulch only after they
have fallen several years.
One of the greatest disadvantages to the cultivation of ginseng out in the woods is
the tree roots pull much moisture out of the ground that is needed by the plants.
The roots must remain moist if they get sufficient plant food and this is not the ease
and probably you have even noted around the farmers fields where trees have not
been cut far enough back away from much the growth of the ginseng root is slowed
It will be necessary that you keep your beds free from weeds, by pulling them with
your hands. You might think you can "clip" the weeds with a hoe, which would be
faster. However, pulling gets the roots. The weeds do not come back this way. By
using plenty of natural mulching, the weed growth will be hampered. It stands to
test, then, that heavily mulched beds will save much labor by hand. Under the
mulch, the ground remains damp, cool, ideal throughout the hot summer months. If
the mulch is removed in the spring, as some gardeners advise, the ground dries out
and becomes hard. This is an unnatural condition, not suitable for growing ginseng.
The temperature and condition of the ground is a very important factor in raising
the plants in marketable quantities.
Although it is debatable as to the right amount of shade for the ginseng garden, it is
a certainty the ginseng must have shade to grow and be healthy. A dense shade
tends to slacken root growth and enhance the number of seeds borne by the plant.
Too open shade withers the plant away. About three-fourths shade has been found
to work best.
For an artificial lath framework, posts have to be set in the ground. These support a
framework of heavy material such as 1x4s or 2x4s, to suit the size of the garden spot.
Panels are made on which the laths are nailed. These panels fit over the "runners"
of the framework. These panels should be of a size that one or two men can easily
handle them, preferably constructed of light material. No dimensions are given.
Every man will have his own ideas as to sizes to which he finds favor. The laths are
nailed onto the panel frame about half an inch apart.
Some gardeners find it easier to weave the laths with wire. The grower only has to
"unroll" his bundle of wire and laths in springtime across the top of the constructed
framework, then in the fall when the plant have died down, roll the covering back
up, to store it away in the dry. This prevents rotting through the winter and the
laths last longer. Possibly painting or whitewash applied to the laths would lengthen
their usefulness, prolonging their life. The rolls are made long enough to reach from
one side of the framework to the other. If the garden is too large, so the roll would
be too large to handle, then it is spliced. Must be fastened good to prevent its
blowing away in storm.
Other types of shading have been successfully used. Brush, old fence rails, burlap
cloth, and other things have been placed over beds, on frames which were built to
hold them up. To be of best use, the framework on which the shade is spread or
laid, should be above your head. About seven feet high is ideal.
If the shade is too low it causes excessive heating and disease may develop. When
laths are used as shading the method of having the ends point north and south is the
best. This will allow the east to west movement of the sun to cast shadows and run
rays in a moving stream on the plants. If the laths were run east and west, the sun
would shine on about the same spots, in streaks, all the day, only moving between
the laths instead of the preferred "across" method.
The difficulty developing from the use of such material as burlap, as a means of
shading the beds, is there always exists a lack of the proper ventilation. In the event
of a storm, too, there is the likelihood of the severe wind "taking the covering" with
it. There are no vents in the cloth, like there are with laths, through which the wind
can escape. A shade that prevents fresh air from circulating is to be avoided. Good,
clean, fresh, circulating air is a strong enemy against blight and all other diseases
that fight the ginseng gardener.
CHAPTER 8: GINSENG DISEASES AND THEIR CAUSES
A manual on the growing of ginseng would not be complete without a chapter on the
enemies of its growth. We should consider ginseng diseases, their causes, with their
possible prevention and cures. While it is understood that the best mode of having
healthy plants is that they do not catch diseases, by strict adherence to disease
prevention, often it happens disease is upon us before we realize it. Perhaps it may
be due to improper methods of cultivation. It may be from neglect, that we must
suffer losses in our gardens.
We should remember: immediately we have transferred ginseng from the wild to
our gardens, we have disturbed its natural way of living. Of course, when we buy
our seeds from those already raising ginseng, there is not much difference. The
change has not long been made. The removal is artificial. Ginseng is, in its natural
habitat, healthy mainly because its every need for food, clothing, and shelter is
supplied, so to speak. It gets water enough for its needs; all excess drains off. It is
warm enough; the mulching regulates that. The top is not too hot; the shade sees to
that. So - what have we?
Therefore, let us bear this in mind, when we change conditions to where the plant is
no longer cared for as Nature cares for her in the wild, as She has cared for the
plant in the past, we upset the apple-cart, the apples begin to roll away (get dirty,
and while they stay there they disease). We this way open the gate so disease can
come in and vigorously attack the plant. The natural resistance of the plant is
broken down. In its ill health, it can no longer fight off blight or a fungi. It is on the
downward road to death, and quick, too, if not rendered help. A checking of the
elements will assist it and aid it back to health.
The reason why wild ginseng is rarely diseased, as found in the untrammeled
forests, is due to the fact conditions are adequate to fight it off. When man steps in
and changes the course of Nature those are the results. Ginseng is untamable. In
the authors opinion, you may set ginseng out in the garden and care for it for years,
but it will never get so it will be grown in the direct rays of the sunlight. That is why
it is untamable.
COMMON DISEASE CAUSES...
(1) Forcing the roots, by the use of fertilizer foreign to the woods loam. It is not a
natural way of obtaining root growth. Rotted sawdust, leaf mold, black
woods loam, rotted down stumps or tree trunks, these all are "natural"
fertilizer. (If you fail to believe this, ask some city dwelling, flower-lover if
she'd like to have some for her flowers). The use of barnyard manure has
paved the road to disease for many gardeners. It is not because it is harmful
in itself, but the trouble lies in the fact this manure causes the roots to grow
to large size quickly. This being unnatural, the road is paved so disease can
attack. Fungi is at home in manure.
(2) Inefficient drainage methods. All wild ginseng grows where drainage is
excellent. Disregard to the necessity of proper drainage will naturally cause
future trouble. Beds should be elevated six inches to a foot above the
surrounding ground. A location for the garden where the ground lays well,
on a slope will aid greatly in keeping the beds "forest like." Surplus water
drains off the surface of the ground.
Out in the woods the tree roots that mingle and interlace beneath the forest
floors, draw much water from the ground. In the garden where there exists
no tree roots, this will not be so. It is needful that special attention be turned
to the drainage situation. Artificial means must be provided so that the
surplus, unwanted water leaves the beds without causing trouble. Drainage
tiles, placed in the middle of the bed, helps keep the water off, preventing
dampness which might start disease.
(3) Mulching. Failure to mulch is the cause of much trouble. Ginseng in the
wild is never without a carpet over her feet, which is of course leaves. These
leaves do not press against the ground air-tight, either. Did you ever notice?
They have air space all through them. Snails, worms, work through this and
keep breath touching the ground. Leaves protect the ground from drying
out in time of drought. The water fed to the ground through the leaves
receives its doses in the right measure. The slant of the land carries away
excess moisture. That is why ginseng needs good drainage. The mulch is an
insulation. The bed of leaves prevents the sun or hot wind from reaching the
root. When you fail to give thought in a serious way to proper mulching
conditions of the ginseng in your beds, to coincide with that on the forest
floor around the wild plant, you will sooner or later be apt to find your
(4) Depth of trans-planted roots. It is doubtful if potential gardeners will
consider this as an element of great importance. However, in the light of
actual occurrences, as we find the plant in the wild, certain measures should
be strictly adhered to.
Let us go dig a wild plant. With our trowel we dig down several inches below
the ground surface before contact with the bud is made. Why? It must be
for some good reason. The ginseng plant is a strange plant. The roots will
not grow on top of the ground like an onion. It even threatens to quit if you
treat it so rough as to try to force it to grow barely beneath the soil top. The
ginseng root must be kept at an even temperature. The roots need to remain
cool, regardless of the weather. By being so far underground and with a leaf
mulch on top, we see at once that the roots are nicely and effectively
protected from any change in temperature in the atmosphere above. **
When trans-planting the root too shallow, the root is not kept at the right
temperature. It possibly becomes either too hot or too cold. Therefore, it
stands to reason its natural growth is thrown out of line, thus it becomes
susceptible to disease. Basically, two or three inches deep to the bud is
(5) Shade. Too meager shade will prematurely cause the leaves to turn yellow
and dry up. Again, this is out of harmony with plants in the wild. Too much
shading means the plants will not dry out right to prevent disease. This is
apt, very apt, to cause complications to set in. The ground being too damp
will set up conditions so fungi will thrive. Ginseng does not do well in
lowland damplands, neither high ground that's too moisture filled. Avoid
ledges in setting out the bed or location of beds where the ground has washed
away, leaving thin soil overlaying them.
If the shade is too low the heat from the sun may damage the plants. The
restricted circulation of air, which will fail in its duty to dry them out, is very
detrimental to healthy beds. The plan is to remove all causes that would
hinder the plant's continuation in the garden as a healthful captured wilding.
The shade is most effective if constructed to allow rainfalls, when they are
scant, to reach the plants unhindered so as to benefit the plants to the fullest
extent of its might, and to ward off hard, driving rain that would injure the
plants. The shade should also be a protection against hail, should it strike in
the vicinity of your beds.
The same effect is obtained if the panels are so constructed, that they can be
raised or lowered, to allow the sun to dry off excessive dampness. The close
set plants shade the ground and heighten the need for free circulating air, as
with the wild, and enough sun to avoid prevailing' dampness to cause ruin.
Guard against attempts at "cultivation" and give the plant every assistance in
retaining its wild characteristics. If you succeed in this perfectly, disease will
bother your gardens very little. The best control of disease is efforts made for its
prevention. should your ginseng beds be attacked, look for the cause. Remove the
cause and the "effect" of the cause will vanish. For every result, there must of
necessity, be a cause. Finding it will make your ginseng garden a healthful place
to grow the plants. A thorough check-up of your garden with "gardens" as in the
wild, will generally result in a simple diagnosis of where the trouble lays.
DISEASES OF GINSENG
Generally speaking, from the results of investigation, the diseases of ginseng develop
from a number of causes. Namely, crowding the plants, insufficient ventilation,
improper drainage, being the chief complaints. Because the plants as they grow
wild are thinly scattered in the forests, under advantageous circumstances, with
favorable respect to soil drainage and ventilation is points, in our estimation, why
the plants there are healthy. In the cultivated state we find the plants more or less
crowded, which tends to produce abnormal conditions, which often results in
material affliction and injury. Fertilization and improper treatment of the soil also
are frequently apt to invite disease.
Alternaria Blight - Affecting both the roots and the leaves of the ginseng plant,
alternaria blight is perhaps one of, if not the most, widespread diseases the gardener
has to contend with. He has to continually guard against its appearance and with his
full strength combat it, to fight it off. In early spring the stems of the diseased plant
usually show dark brown cankers, just above the ground. These enlarge in the
course of time and become covered with a coating of velvety brown. In mid-summer
you will note the development of large spots on the leaves, water soaked, which
finally get dry and papery. The seed heads are affected and the berries are apt to
shell. If the root becomes attacked they slowly rot away.
It so happens that the fungus causing the blight does not become extinct over the
winter, so the tops should be destroyed, if the roots have not been attacked. In the
Government bulletin number 1184 the means of fighting this disease is to wait until
the top's die down, disinfect by soaking with a solution of 1 pound of copper sulfate
to 7 gallons of water. Soak the beds down to a one inch depth. This insures death to
The plants may be sprayed during the growing season with a 3-3-50 Bordeaux
mixture to which has been added 2 pounds of calcium arsenate. Spray just as soon
as the plants begin to appear in the spring time. When the leaves have fully opened
spray again. A third spraying should be done just previous to blossom time and a
fourth and last spraying should be done after the seeds appear. This does a good
job of checking the disease.
For the small garden ginseng grower it is convenient to purchase the Bordeaux
mixture already mixed. The large area gardener will save money and have the
mixture more effective from freshly prepared powders or solution. The
Government bulletin gives directions for mixing. It advises: dissolve 3 pounds of
copper sulfate in hot water, using a wooden or earthenware Vessel, and dilute to 25
gallons with water. Slake 3 pounds of stone lime (or 5 pounds of hydrated lime) in a
small amount of water and dilute to 25 gallons. Pour the two solutions together
while stirring and then add 2 pounds of calcium arsenate. When only small
quantities are needed you may prepare 3 ounces of copper sulfate and 3 ounces of
stone lime (or 5 ounces of hydrated lime) to total of 3 gallons of water and add 2
ounces of calcium arsenate.
Very destructive is soft rot and the mildew, phytophthora. A fungus disease that
affects the stems', roots, and the leaves of ginseng. Much similar to the attack by
alternaria blight, the stems become hollow and the tops droop, the leaf blades show
spots resembling the blight in the earlier stages of the disease. The roots that
become infected develop rot and fungi attacks and causes the plant to emit a
disagreeable odor. Like for the "blight" you can spray with the mixture of
Bordeaux. The quickest altering of the diseases cause will most rapidly manifest
effective blotting out. It is highly advisable to remove all wilting or drooping tops by
cutting off at the crown. This slackens the progress of the fungus down into the
roots. Remove and destroy the affected roots with a solution of 1 pound of copper
sulfate in 7 gallons of water. Beds should be changed to other spots to eliminate the
possibility of spreading contagion. If this is not done, each successive crop annually
will suffer the disease. The beds should be left unused for several years.
It is a known fact that infected beds may be sterilized with steam, as beds of tobacco
plants are handled in the tobacco growing regions of the U. S. or with a solution of 1
part formaldehyde to 50 gallons of water. Before using this to sterilize the ground,
spade the area thoroughly after removing all the roots. Now the solution may be
applied at the volume of 1/2 to 1 gallon of solution to the square foot. The quantity
must be such that the soil is thoroughly saturated. When possible, the soil should
then be spaded so the ground will; be loosened again and the formaldehyde can
Never plant back before allowing plenty of time, about 14 days, for the solution, that
is used to sterilize the ground, has all gone. During this interval the ground should
be stirred, the soil loosened, so the formaldehyde fumes, which are injurious to plant
growth, can depart before the arrival of time for planting.
The acrostalagmus wilt attacks the older plants, rarely causing much damage, but is
not a disease to welcome into the beds. Any disease that impairs the growth, slowing
the constant growing of the roots, is apt to be harmful. The fungus penetrates the
water conducting vessels of the root and causes a gradual wilting of the top.
Externally, the diseased root seems healthy. However, when cut across it shows a
low zone in the conducting tissue. The roots when they become diseased should be
dug and dried to remove the infection source. Beds where the disease has occur-red
may best be disinfected with the formaldehyde solution or the application of steam.
Rust, or rarnularia root rot, is strictly due to fungus attacking all aged plants. The
disease is most common to the seedlings. On old plants the rusty brown spots do not
very often penetrate deeply but remains very shallow The hair-like root lets of the
young seedlings are badly damaged and the tap-root becomes knobby and short.
An alkaline soil is favorable, as a resistor, against this disease. Avoid adding wood
ashes or lime to the loam in which plants are grown as this assists root rot. The
fungus is not deterred in its work.
Rots. There are two diseases that attacks ginseng. One, sclerotinia rots and
although appearing in most sections where ginseng is grown, the damage is rarely
widespread. The stem and root are both affected. The top is not spotted, nor is it
hurt any other way. The tissues of infected roots become soft and brittle and they
rot rapidly. Black hard bodies form on the stem and root. These are often as large
as a quarter inch long. This is the body of the fungus that stays alive over winter.
Cup-like bodies containing innumerable spores are produced in the spring, which
are sources of the communication of the disease from the sick to the healthy plants.
It appears too little attention to proper drainage and aeration of the soil promotes, if
not the direct causes, of this infection. Obviously, the proper means of combating
this disease is to remove and burn all plants showing the contamination, and
disinfect the soil from which they came, with a solution of copper sulfate as
described for phytophthora mildew.
Other diseases which sometimes occur on wild ginseng and false Solomon's seal is
called sclerotiniia black rot. It is possible that this disease may be introduced
through use of woodland loam used in building up the garden beds. Progress is slow
during the growing season. It attacks only the roots. Often when plants fail to
appear in the springtime you may find black rot has' developed and only a black,
soot-like root can be located. All diseased areas should be treated as mentioned for
the other type of disease, rot, burning any existing evidences that may be left, so as
to thoroughly eliminate any possible trace for conveying it further.
Damping-off. When the garden is attacked by this disease, appearing in the seed
beds, you will note the decay of the stem at the top of the ground. The plants will
fall over and the infected plants will die. The fungi which causes this disease seems
to be present in the soil, to be accelerated into action by dampness (poor drainage)
and too little air about the roots. To raise seedlings it is positively necessary the bed
be well drained. After rains the ground may well be loosened and the seed' should
be planted' in rows to allow this. If sown broadcast, it is difficult stirring the
ground of the seedbed without disturbing the germinated seeds. When possible to
sterilize the beds before sowing with the formaldehyde solution, ginseng seedling
losses will be greatly reduced.
CHAPTER 9: DIGGING AND DRYING THE ROOTS
The pleasures to be gleaned from hunting the wild plants should not be overlooked.
The wild root digger starts his hunt early in the morning and walks slowly through
the woods, digging plants here and there as he finds them, sits at noon by water
where he can quench his thirst while eating the lunch he carries, then on into the
late afternoon, when he will arrive home, tired and near exhaustion, but often well
pleased with his finds. As he passes the last gurgling brook or pond, he will stoop to
dump the fresh roots onto the ground. Now the washing process commences. Care
is taken because his market presents best prices for unbroken roots. The excess dirt
is removed. The dirt clinging in the wrinkles is left, as it is not advisable to scrub
and remove this. The root is best when only rinsed off.
Always use care when washing, not to leave ginseng roots in water overnight. This
is detrimental to the inside coloring and likewise harmful to the roots marketing
value. The roots will not command as high price per pound. When the washing is
done after you arrive home from the trip, merely place the roots in a container, a
washbasin or a tub, with enough water to cover them. Stir the roots, then lift them
out to drain. The roots are not harmed if left over night before washing. However,
it is probably just as well that they be washed soon as brought in from the hunt.
When the roots have drained off excess water, place in the spot you intend drying
them. We prefer a warm, airy, dry room. Up near the roof of a house, is a good
place. Also the attic. If only a few are to be dried, almost any location will suffice.
If larger amounts are to be handled, then special accommodation must be
improvised for their care. Spread just a few, thinly on paper. Be sure the air
reaches all sides and circulates around them. Turn them over every day or so.
Avoid tying roots together on a string, or running a threaded needle through them,
to hang them up with. Also do not dry too close to the kitchen stove. Around the
stove is apt to collect dust, soot, etc., which is not adding quality to them.
Ginseng dried too fast will form a brittle shell outside. Slow drying with plenty of
fresh, circulating air is conducive to fine quality dried roots.
Cultivated roots are cleaned much the same as wild roots. On small quantities a soft
tooth brush is excellent to get around between twists and turns of the roots. The
cultivated root being somewhat larger, due to more favorable conditions of growth
and help in resisting enemies, requires a bit longer for drying out. It is highly
advisable that too many roots not be placed in the tub for washing 'at once. Ginseng
roots are not improved by soaking, neither are they made better by breakage of the
rootlets. Small quantities washed at a time, will result in better quality roots. You
can work fast and carefully, then remove after washing to drain.
When you have quite a quantity of roots to sell, after they are dry, separate the roots
into two sizes. Place all small roots together, and all those from average size up, in
another pile. The ginseng hunter who is on to his business will not dig the small
plants, no matter how many he finds, but will wait and come back to them later. In
a few years they will be worth real money and he can carry a notebook along on his
trips, in which locations can be jotted down, maps drawn in unfamiliar territory,
where small rooted plants are found plentiful enough to warrant another visit years
later. The approximate age of the plants, or the general age of most of them, would
be another valuable notation. This way, the required number of years later you
could return and gather in a harvest of roots having reached maturity. Of course
there are ginseng hunters active at all times through the summer, though the root
should not be dug until fall. After the seeds have ripened and are a beautiful
scarlet, is the time to begin the search for ginseng. The roots are now matured and
The wild ginseng hunter should always be ready to lend aid to the plant in rendering
a better chance for it to propagate as this is necessary if he is to find it still growing
in the woods in years to come. All wild root hunters should be conservative minded
and strive to care for the young that may be near the old plant when dug. Give them
a chance. They'll grow up, too, in a few years and bumper future crops will be the
All diggers of wild roots now scorn upon those who do not use care to see that young
plants come. Trans-plant the seedlings in better places, thin them where growing
too close, sow the ripened seeds. When ready to harvest the plants of the root
garden, proper care is essential. Careful excavation will prevent many damaged or
broken roots. As a rule, all the garden is dug, when time has come they have
matured. Some growers keep out the large roots for marketing and transplant the
smaller roots. However, it is debatable if this procedure is profitable. If the roots
given the same chance as the others fails to reach a fair size in 5 to 7 years, it is to be
doubted if they should be allowed longer growth, at least sufficient to pay the
Dig the roots from the garden in autumn. If blight or some other disease has set in,
this case is not so. In this event, you are forced to dig them at the time the contagion
is noticed. This is necessary to keep the malady under control. After washing, dry
them on a soft cloth or allow them to drain. Remove to the drying racks, or place
selected for this purpose. The elimination of breakage is to be practiced. Never split
the roots nor handle roughly. Ginseng should always be dried whole and though it
dries quicker if split or sliced, this should be avoided. Hot air in special dryers are
used in drying to some extent by the growers that have enough roots to present a
problem. In drying without heat, see that the room is warm and airy. Never dry
roots over a cooking stove.
You will be able to determine after some little practice if the roots are dry enough to
market. If the roots come in contact with dampness, they might mold and be less
valuable. The roots should always be thoroughly dry before packing to send to the
dealer. Leave the tiny rootlets on the main roots. While some gardeners remove
them, it is best if that is left up to the dealer. If the dealer wants them off, let him do
the job. The age when cultivated roots may be dug for market is from 5 years up. If
the ginseng plants are healthy they should reach marketable age in 5 years.
The selection of a good attic floor for drying the roots will make you money. Leave
places to walk between the drying roots, so they can be turned every day or two, and
the air will reach all parts and perfect drying will be the result. If the air becomes
damp, as it's likely to do in low situations, close windows and a small fire will aid in
the drying. If the location where the roots are being dried is out of the valleys,
above damp sections such as creeks, marshes, etc., the roots will cure much better.
If not wishing to ship soon as the roots are dry, store them so dust will not
accumulate on them. As dust settles like sediment does in water, from above,
protect the top side. It is not advisable to dry roots in the sun.
The man with a large garden of roots to dig and dry must make different
arrangements than he who has only a small garden spot or two. After he will be
compelled to build an artificial drier that will efficiently do the job. If the ginseng
garden is an acre or more, it may be best to build a house to be used for this end of
the business alone. To grow the plants until the roots have become large enough to
be marketed and then ruin the crop by failure to properly dry them would be
terrible. There are plans which can be secured from the Government that show
how to build sheds that will cure up the roots. Write requesting same. They are
furnished without obligation.
Artificial heat, combined with good ventilation, is without doubt the best. The
temperature may be between 60 and 80 F. and after a few days should be increased
to 90F. The roots can be spread thinly on latticed trays, that fit into a chest-like
affair, to suit the requirements; large size for large gardens, likewise small size for
Use care around the garden to prevent dogs and cats, or other domestic animals,
also men, children, and women from walking on the plants. Ginseng, being costly in
outlay to prepare the beds, and of a valuable nature itself, requires special care in
guarding against theft. Use mole traps to stop their tunneling. To keep out the
mice, set wire into the ground a foot deep, of a mesh through which they cannot go.
Metal would work the same way.
Under favorable circumstances, it is estimated that one man can care for a garden
acreage of two acres. This is because it needs no "cultivation" in the true sense of
the word, but must only be kept free of weeds and grasses, which are pulled by
In boxing up roots for shipment, use special care in packing. The container should
be packed so the roots cannot move around while being shipped, to prevent
breakage or damage, which may materially lower the value, of the roots. The type
container the roots are shipped in will depend on the amount to be shipped. If small
quantities, it may be best to use cardboard boxes, strongly built, and insulate well
with plenty of paper. The large garden will turn off roots by the barrel. This size
shipment will need special care and insulation. Ship small boxes or quantities by
parcel post; larger shipments by express. Old newspapers on the bottom of the
shipping container makes first-class insulation. Add the roots slowly, shaking gently
to settle them much as you can. When full or you have run out of roots, fill the
remainder of the way with crumpled newspapers. It should be remembered to have
paper around the sides, too, as a protection. Place the top on securely after having
your name and address, plainly written, on the inside which, in case of loss of the
outside tag, tearing into the package, the dealer can find who it belongs to. Tie the
box with strong cord and label the outside plainly. It is best to insure all shipments
of ginseng roots, as they are quite valuable.
CHAPTER 10: GINSENG QUALITY
The Chinese who offer us a market out-let for our ginseng do not want roots that
deviate from the wild flavor. Ginseng gardeners who have rushed the growth of
their crops by maturing, and other artificial means of furnishing plant food to the
soil, have found the market slow to accept their products. Besides the dangers of
having your plants attacked by diseases, from such methods, the taste has been
somewhat changed, the quality has been interfered with and found defective.
This proves that ginseng not only cannot be tamed-it must not! If we would be
interested in supplying a product most wanted by the buyer, we must strive to
create roots that in quality are equal to the wild. Our raising ginseng to please the
buyers means more liberal prices per pound and larger quantities accepted, which is
exactly what we should strive for, to make ginseng cultivation more lucrative, a
business with less chance and more sure profits. Here we are again forced to
remember the Chinese formerly accepted the wild root without disparaging
comment. Our beds should produce ginseng as near like forest ginseng in flavor as
Forcing manures only cause quick growth, which the Chinese do not at present like.
Manures, besides the cause of a situation favorable for the breeding of disease, by
the quick growth and large size, simply lay the pathway open for lower prices.
While in time of high prices for the slow grown ginseng, the quick grown may
command a fair price, but the average is not worth the effort. Why not simulate the
wild and receive the best prices? With manure, the roots were made larger, in a
minimum space of years, but as the quality was impaired, the demand has subsided
Potential gardeners should use their heads, in preventing the same mistakes that
were formerly made, in the experimentation years of growing ginseng. The only
fertilizer really needed for the growth of ginseng is that found naturally in the
forest; namely, woods loam, decayed tree dust, rotted sawdust, leaf mold. Artificial
fertilizers, such as horse manure, while of a forcing nature; can only bring the
gardener trouble, sooner or later.
Gardens whose soil always comes from forest locations and has no fertilizers applied
will grow plants the roots of which will not be scant on quality. The taste will more
closely resemble that of the wild root. This should be remembered. The full growth
to maturity will also aid in the production of first class roots. The root will become
firm, when the top stops growing. It will weigh out heavier than when dug earlier.
Late fall is the right time to begin digging the cultivated or wild plants. The best
month is October, just previous to the freezing of the ground.
CHAPTER 11: THE VALUE OF THE GINSENG CROP
The yield of cultivated ginseng varies very much and largely depends upon the'
adapted conditions under which the crop has been grown, also due to the skill and
experience of the gardener. Some gardens, due to richer loam, may yield large
roots, a similar sized area may not be so rich, therefore, the roots grown would not
be so large. This can make a considerable difference. An area of only 4 by 30 feet of
mature roots, about 5 to 7 years old, should yield 20 pounds of dry roots. A ton of
dry roots to the acre of well managed garden is a reasonable average. Some
gardeners report higher yields.
Ginseng has not been credited as being of a curative value by many people but the
Chinese. Exportations from the United States to China has been carried on for
quite a number of years. Since the year 1886 the cultivation of this plant has been
experimented with. Around the turn of the century less than 20 acres were under
cultivation in our United States. Very few cultivated roots were around that time
put on the market.
At the initial appearance of cultivated ginseng from this country, the Chinese paid
higher prices for it than for the wild root. However, the price soon declined to
below that paid for the wild root. This was possibly due to "forcing" root growth by
manuring and fertilizers, to speed big, profitable yields.
THE VALUE OF SEEDS
Properly cared for gardens will yield nice quantity, as well as quality, of roots
annually. Prices advancing or decreasing would materially interfere with the
amount obtained from any specified area, with profits in accordance, but over a
period of years, ginseng has been known to yield along with other crops favorably.
Other farm crops do not always demand nice returns for time, labor, and money
investment. It is a matter of chance. With the right facilities ginseng roots could be
stored over several years. The gardener might then hold back his production of
roots when the prices are too low to make profits until better prices were offered.
This might mean the difference between splendid wages and complete loss.
Beds kept for the production of seeds, would be cared for a bit different than those
which were for the growth of roots alone. The seed-heads are clipped to make
larger root growth. When seed heads are wanted, they are left alone. A well
handled bed has been known to yield 25 or more pounds of seed from a 40x50 foot
plot for one season.
The possibilities are easily seen for a garden of an acre or more. Of course your
outlet for seeds would be to other gardeners and the demand might be somewhat
limited. Some gardeners clip the seed-heads before forming. It is the growers own
pleasure to decide what methods he will use. The root may gain extra size, by
clipping the heads so the strength stays in the root, but the question seems to
remain, after much threshing, "which is the most profitable?" Would the increased
root growth be sufficiently profitable - to outweigh profits from the sale of seeds to
other gardeners? The fact is, up to a certain point, the grower would be most
profitably rewarded by allowing as many plants to seed as he would have need of (as
this would only slacken the growth of the root and not destroy it) and clip the
From observation the fact remains the production of seeds from a nice size garden
spot would be considerable. A general average would be 8,000 seeds to the pound.
Seeds of ginseng from the more northern states being somewhat larger than those
coming from southern states, there would be some variation. Southern seeds may
number 10,000 or in extreme cases, as many as 11,000 to the pound. In the
cultivated patch, seed heads that produce as much as 200 seeds are not rare.
However, in boiling down our information, the many who intend taking up the
gardening of ginseng should not be ruled by figures of high returns from successful
growers, but by common sense. Lest this fact be misinterpreted, allow me to hasten
and say, by looking at the result we often overlook the effort and pains required to
GAIN THAT RESULT. That is why we caution any investing man to go easy-- "be
sure, then go ahead," is a rule that should be followed, lest a man's savings be lost.
When handled right, the grower may expect to earn fair returns for his investment
of both time and labor, but instant success must not be expected by the
inexperienced, due to the fact it requires several years before any returns at all can
be seen, from the venture. Prices may be high this year and low next, or the nice
prices may stay up for several years. Your guess would be as good as the next
fellows; though a study of figures of the past 50 years would show what years the
"slump and the rises" were, how long, and other interesting factors that might
enhance or work against your entering the ginseng gardening field of endeavor.
Years are required to gain knowledge by study as to know the nature of the ginseng
plant, which is the reason why outdoors men who spend their time in the natural
home of the plant, will make better growers than those who never saw the plant. It is
not impossible for any type men though, to learn the game, or business. The
learning of any enterprise is weighed only by the amount of time and study you are
willing to spend at it. The natural habits, which will enable you to conform your
gardening activities to its natural requisites, is the important thing.
Judicious ginseng cultivation is a worthwhile enterprise. The person who has a love
of the outdoors, a real love, a liking to work among plants, and patience, will find a
good profit over a period of years. He should have "grit enough in his craw" not to
easily quit and throw up his hands because of low prices or back-sets, but have a
sincere conviction that low prices cannot always endure, that better money per
pound will be paid tomorrow, next year, or the next; that the only thing to do is hold
on and work harder.
It is the writer's opinion that ginseng will prove a profitable plant to grow even with
the price per pound as low as three dollars. However, any below this, it would
require that the gardener be very careful on his expenses, to pan out as a venture
where a loss of money would not be felt. Any above three dollars a pound would,
certainly, be to the good. As spoken elsewhere in this manual, with a place to store
ginseng roots, it would be an easy matter to hold them over a few years until better
prices were being offered, before letting them go at low prices.
Patient gardeners who realize the limitations of growth and the natural, slow
development will find attractive possibilities. But the business is not one for the
inexperienced, looking for a get-rich-quick return, from his small outlay of cash. It
can not be done, for obvious reasons. Plunging into ginseng growing may prove
disastrous. It is best to begin inexpensively and experiment as you go along, gaining
an insight into the business, as you feel your way.
It would probably be a waste of time to attempt raising the plants in the southwest
or the far south, where it is not a native, growing naturally wild. However, it has
been grown in Oregon and similar areas.
CHAPTER 12: MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION
The gardener should be careful where and how he gathers the mulch for covering
the garden. It is possible to gather a bunch of bad weed seed and he be forced to
"pull 'em out" the following spring. This could force a lot of unnecessary work on
the man when careful selection would prevent it.
It is well for the gardener gathering leaves for mulch to beware of leaf mold found
in forests below cultivated land, where there is the possibility of the seeds of weeds
having washed or otherwise been carried over the leaves.
Strive in raising ginseng to grow it a direct imitation of the wild plant. You can't
make a wrong move by doing this. The largest prices paid on the market is for the
wild. You'll be "hitting" in the right direction. With the proper shade and soil,
ginseng can be grown in almost any section of the country.
Study the nature of ginseng. The hours spent thus will not only repay you in
ginseng lore but in health, which is a valuable asset. Short of being able to study the
plant in its natural habitat, you should procure all the Government bulletins, which
may be obtained by writing to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.
C. on the subject. They will be sent free. Also all the books you can lay your hands
on will help pave the way to greater success with less failure.
Fallacious advertising in the past suggesting fabulous sums to be gained were a
disadvantage to the industry. The inexperienced immediately entertained the
supposition they could grow ginseng. Without study of the natural, requirements,
their efforts were a failure. Many were thus led into ginseng culture who were not
suited to it. The monetary return can only be found after the work of sowing, transplanting,
growing, caring for the plants, harvesting and drying properly, which
requires a certain number of years. The inexperienced who feels he can "dash in"
and grab a hip pocket full of the long green cash profits, has another thing coming.
It cannot be done.
The man who is not familiar with this plant in the wild, should investigate its
possibilities with thoroughness, to ascertain its advantages, as well as its
disadvantages. The man who is not familiar with ginseng in its natural
environment, is unfitted to its growing, until he has learned the habits of the plant.
It would be an enormous undertaking to estimate the pounds of roots amateur
growers have ruined in the growing process, through disease brought on by a
misunderstanding of the plant's requirements, or when drying by allowing the roots
to scorch or sour. And all this on account of the fact so many have failed to stop and
think before acting. Learn the facts! That's how to succeed.
It is not our plan to turn you against the business. A ginseng enterprise can be a
means of gleaning some nice profits. Many growers are reaping monetary benefits.
Some of them have been at it for a score or more years. Why do they still grow the
plants? You can bet they are not doing it for the fun alone. They are making
money! It is a worthwhile undertaking. But only after you have investigated the
plant's nature. When you know how it is done, go ahead.
The amateur is by no means barred from ginseng culture. A man is an amateur be
he 7 or 70 if he is inexperienced. Experience is what takes you out of the amateur
class and pushes you up the ladder toward the top rung, which is called "skill." By
study you can quit being inexperienced. By doing in a small way, you can gain in
knowledge. If you are interested in growing ginseng, by all means invest a part of
your money and find by first-hand experience what to do.
Delve into the culture of the plant in a small way. Start a plot or two. As you gain
experience and interest, so you can, branch out and enlarge your gardens. If you
like the project, you can more easily expand from the actual knowledge you have
gained and the start you will have made. The seeds you collect from your miniature
garden' will arouse you to the fact your future plantings will be easier from sowing
and growing your own beds, transplanting the two-year olds, than you would from
buying two-year old plants to start with. It will be cheaper after you have started.
Of course when you begin the ginseng garden, you can buy some plants. They are
usually sold by the hundred, while seeds are sold by the thousand. The reason we
urge you to buy some two-year old plants to get out in your garden in the fall is
because it takes seeds 18 months to germinate. Ginseng will start producing seeds
the third year. A vigorous plant when two years old may have a few seeds on its
A fine shade for ginseng would be three-fourths shade and one-fourth sun. A shade
of two-thirds and a sun of one-third, would make a good substitute, for woods
Ginseng seeds are very delicate. One way to keep them until ready to sow, is to mix
with fine sand. Sift sand and use three pints of sand to two pints of berries. If only
a few seeds are to be packed away in this sand, slightly dampen the sand. One-half
inch of sand should be spread out in the bottom of the jar or other container. Now
place in a layer of berries (seeds), then another of sand. Repeat this process as often
as necessary. When through, or the box or jar is full, always spread the sand on
last, to protect the seeds. Over the sand a wet rag should be placed to preserve the
moisture and on top of this the cover. The container holding the sand and the seeds
should now be placed in a basement or cellar.
When packing seeds (berries containing seeds) the container, box or jar, should not
be airtight. Holes may be bored in the sides or top, thin cloth may be tied over the
top, to prevent the seeds from sifting out. The pulp will be gone from the seeds in
about 10 or 12 weeks. The seeds you may now gather by sifting through a strainer
that will permit the sand passing through and retaining the seeds.
Now for what is called the "water test," sink the seeds below the surface of some
water. All that float are no good, so skim them off and throw away. The seeds now
may be packed away between layers of sand that is just damp; if the sand is too dry
the germ in the seed may die, if too wet you may find the seeds have rotted. Try to
keep the sand about as moist as you would naturally find the soil, if you should
intend planting in your vegetable garden, or like it would be beneath the leaf mold
and mulch in the forest, where it would lay to germinate.
Planting ginseng seeds in the fall is conceded the best. If kept till spring and then
sown, many will be lost. If you will make sure the seeds are only germinated (or
cracked) seeds, chances of success will be greater, because this will show they are
If sowing seeds in permanent beds you must place seeds at least 8 inches apart.
If sowing in a seed bed, where later you will remove for trans-planting, sow from 1
to 2 inches apart in the row, the rows 6 to 8 inches apart.
To trans-plant the 2 year old plants, set 8 inches apart in rows 8 inches apart.
Seeds sown in the bed for later transplanting should be covered with an inch of
rotted down basswood, hickory, or similar soil. Rich woods loam is good. Never use
pine nor oak wood for covering (it's saw dust) because it is not the best.
When trans-planting the young plants, place the bud at least two or more inches
below the surface of the ground. This insures perfect insulation from the heat and
Seed production is restricted simply by snipping off the flower heads. By doing this
the roots will gain in weight and size more rapidly.
The center of the ginseng bed should be like a highway - it should be elevated so as
to run the water off. This affords proper drainage. If the soil is gluey with an
underlying hard-pan, then a drain tile in the center of the bed, every so far apart,
may be necessary. The distance apart will depend on the soil. Heavy soil will
require closer tile placing than lighter soil. By cultivating the soil deeper before the
plants are set out, the soil that is heavy will afford a much better drainage.
As ginseng must have a free circulation of air, the use of burlap for shading is
inadvisable. This restricts the proper ventilation, as moving current of air cannot
find freedom, and proves this shading is not conducive to the health of the plants.
Any method that provides excellent shade, where air is still allowed freedom is all
right. The plan some growers follow, is to erect a frame for a lath covering. This is
suitable due to the fact air can circulate freely beneath its shade.
For artificial shade where laths are used, set posts into the ground 8 feet apart each
way and about the same above the ground. Scantlings of 2x4 material are nailed on
top of these posts so they run the long ways with the shed. Make panels or sections
four by eight feet which is to be covered with the laths. Nail the laths from a
quarter to a half an inch apart, narrower in the south where the sun will be shining
hottest, while in the north where the rays will not affect the beds so badly, you may
have the laths nailed a bit wider. The intensity of the sun will affect the width the
laths are placed. The frames are so constructed as to enable the caretaker of the
garden to remove them from the shed in the fall, when they will not be needed, and
store away to prevent undue decay. They are then returned to their places on the
framework when spring approaches again. This doubles the life of the frames and
The laths should be placed on the top so they point north and south. This way, the
sun moves the shade and shadow beneath from west to east as it travels from the
raising in the morning until it sets that evening. The slats, (laths), are placed on
their ends along the sides. It will take two four foot laths end to end, to reach the
top. Keep in mind the value of plenty of air space when construction is being done.
This is a necessity and should not be overlooked.
The shade in some gardens are constructed so it swings on an axle. This way, the
top, constructed of laths on frame-work, can be tilted up to allow the rainfall to fall
full on the plants, or raised to permit the sun to dry off the plants.
The "roof" of the shed ought not be made level. It should be so slanted that the
water running down the laths will drip into the paths instead of onto the beds, which
might during a hard or long period of wet weather, cause ditches to be cut out or
soil to wash away.
Ginseng culture is profitable if you make a study of the plants nature then apply this
knowledge to your gardening. It is not a difficult crop to cultivate providing you
have the fundamental knowledge, the principles that form the basic foundation.
Without a foundation a house cannot be built, neither any other venture be
As a general rule, from 5 to 7 years are required to grow marketable roots. It has
been reported that well managed gardens, by expert ginsengers, have produced as
much as two tons of roots to the acre, however, is above the average.
If it is decided to plant the seeds in the fall, which is the best time, you may begin in
September and continue until the ground freezes or it gets too late. Germinated
seeds are those that have been stratified through one season, as it takes 18 months
for the seeds to come up. By planting these seeds, which may be obtained from
reliable growers, such as Oscar Austin's Seng-Fur Farm, Canton, Minn., you will be
able to get plants up the spring that follows the planting. This saves much time, in
fact, a full year. So when you buy seeds, request stratified seed. Fall is the best time
to trans-plant seedlings, too.
A black but light humus soil, virgin and of a clay nature, made up of wood that has
rotted down to soil, or of rotted leaves, is probably the best soil. For high grade
roots, clay is especially good. A sandy loam is all right. A small plot of rich forest
loam well managed will produce better than larger plots not cared for as well. This
should always be remembered. Being a crop that requires only a small area to
produce large profits, when handled right, special care is essential. Study the plant
in the wild. It is not possible for it to survive without shade.
The plants are washed after being dug and thoroughly dried before being shipped to
market. As to the best months for digging, September and October.
How much cultivation is required? The preparation of the soil for sowing the seeds
and trans-planting the young plants, pulling the weeds that grow up among the
plants during the growing season. That is all. Easy, simple labor. The ginseng,
being a perennial dies down in the fall but comes up from the same root the
The one contemplating entering the culture of ginseng should proceed with caution
and common sense, to avoid unnecessary errors, besides loss of money. Many
potential growers wonder, trying to count the dollars ahead of time, how many roots
does it take to make a pound. We might ask you "how many peanuts does it take?"
or "how many potatoes?" as the answer depends much on the size of peanuts,
potatoes, or ginseng roots.
Roughly, on an acre of garden, where all plants are healthy, there will be 100,000
plants. This figures the beds with the rows set 8 inches apart and the same distance
between the plants in the row. That is quite a number of plants. The ginseng beds
should be anywhere from four to six feet wide, with an 18 inch path between the
beds, in which you can sit or squat while pulling weeds out. This can best be
arranged by the individual party, as the personal ideas of one grower would conflict
with that of another. The width would depend much on the arrangement of the
shade. It is best to have the beds wider if the ground drains well, but if of clay
mixture, where water may be slow to drain right, the narrower the beds should be.
Round the beds up so they are higher in the middle than at the edges. Boards or
stone set 'on edge around the beds keeps them nice and in place. The, paths will be
lower than, the beds, and the water will likely run down them, and afford better
Ginseng seeds ripen in late August. The clump of berries turns crimson when ripe.
Seeds resemble tomato seed, only they are larger.
Wild ginseng has been dug very close for quite a few years. It is not found as
plentifully as formerly. Some sections it is "dug out" where it would not pay a man
to spend the day digging, except for the pleasure and fun to be had out in the golden
hills. In many sections of the ginseng belt where it grows native to the territory,
ginsengers will be digging most of the summer. As a rule, however, you will not find
such selfish ginseng diggers as you once did. Men who hunted years ago dug all the
plant found, whether small or large, with no thought as to replenishing the supply
by sowing the seeds. More ginseng diggers now-a-days plant the seeds carefully
before leaving the spot while using extreme care to see that the young plants are not
harmed in any way. When two small, ones grow close together, the conservative
ginsenger will remove one a foot away, so both will have a better chance to reach a
mature size. The average ginseng digger knows small roots are not wanted except at
very low prices, which do not pay to dig, and they had 'rather their competitor dig
them a few years later than dig them while small. When they reach marketable size
he knows he can return and be apt to find them unmolested. The old time 'senger
made good wages, even at the low prices. Some men do, scarce as the plant is today,
though most must take their returns from hunting the plant out in their love for the
If you buy seeds or young plants to begin a garden, get them as near home as is
possible, or as near in your latitude as you can. Seeds and seedlings become adapted
much quicker and begin to grow better if you take this advice.
Plants that are brought from a region farther south than where you expect to begin
your garden will require at least a little time to become acclimated to your weather.
Stock purchased farther north will be somewhat better. However, this ought, not
stop you from beginning the culture of ginseng if you feel you can make it an
enterprise. If the closest place you know of is a thousand miles away, go ahead and
buy what is needed. Though they will be slow getting used to that section, by careful
attendance you will lose very few.
CHAPTER 13: OUR FUTURE MARKET
There lurks a thought among a host of individuals that some day the Chinese people
may cease to use ginseng and leave the budding industry in a predicament out of
which it could not climb as the market would be gone.
The thriving millions who live in China must struggle for bread. The Chinese are
said to be superstitious. There is room for doubt. The exports to that land of the
Chinese during the World's War number two was cut off. With no market existing,
any buyers of ginseng could only hold it on speculation. If the Japanese people had
taken China, it is doubtful if the speculators would have come out on their
purchases, though the prices paid were rather low. With no ginseng leaving this
country, it is easy to see why not a large price per pound could be paid. Following
the World's War number 1 ginseng went to as high as $24 per pound. Since World
War two came to an end, the price per pound has been steadily increasing.
The author is in a position where steady reports reach him every week or so, as to
the rise or fall of this highly prized root of the Chinese. No doubt there are millions
in China that were deprived of ginseng root, during the hectic war struggles. They
will be eager now to get American ginseng, and the price will, naturally, rise. Those
who kept their gardens in shape through the war will receive benefits exceeding a lot
of their expectations. The quicker a man studies the plant and begins it's raising,
that much quicker, in the author's opinion, he will be in position to reap a harvest of
good wages. Ginseng bought during the war could only be stored away and held till'
higher prices. At the end of he war, ginseng was only bringing from 30c to 35c per
ounce. It has been ascending in value to the present, with all chances of rising
higher even yet. By the time this book comes out, we are afraid to estimate what it
will be bringing. No doubt, it might have settled down to a steady price.
As the war came to a close, there may have been Chinese dealers dickering with the
American ginseng buyers for the shipment of larger quantities of the root. At this
writing, the price paid for wild roots has gone over the dollar an ounce mark. This
is what we predicted it would do once he war came to an end, so we may be writing
along the right line. This is a note of encouragement to all gardeners, and the
diggers will again comb their old haunts, where once they used to "find diggings"
and slowly the price will be apt to decrease. In the writers own opinion, I feel the
big War wages has made a lot of people shy away from the labor type of work. In
this case, the price for ginseng may stay high for a half dozen years, until thousands
upon thousands thrown out of work will seek employment in the woods and hills,
and the roots dug will satisfy the demands of the Chinese and prices will settle back
down to normal.
The Chinese are no more apt to abandon the use and purchase of ginseng, American
wild and cultivated if care is used in its cultivation, though they may kick against
poorly grown, poorly dried, soured, rotted roots than the American people are apt
to quit the use of coffee, tea, pepper, etc., which is bought from other countries and
shipped here. Not any quicker will the Chinese cease to buy than the Americans will
eliminate spices from their foods, and the tobacco habit. So why worry about its
possibility? The Chinese have used ginseng for hundreds of years before the plant
was discovered in the U.S. Properly grown ginseng will always be in demand. The
price paid may rise or may fall, but the teeming millions of China will still need, and
be willing to pay, for American ginseng. It happened that a missionary among the
American Indians noted the ginseng plant, that it resembled what the Chinese used.
A few plants were sent across and the word came back verifying his supposition.
The news was received that the Chinese would buy the roots of American ginseng.
Ginseng is grown in China. The Korean beds produce very valuable plants of high
quality and price, prized very much by those who are wealthy enough to afford
them. Ginseng that comes from the United States, being lower in price, enables the
lower class of Chinese people to purchase sufficient for their needs. There are
Chinese dealers in the United States who handle ginseng directly with China,
importing both cultivated roots and wild roots to advantage.
As mentioned before, study the nature of the wild plant with particular attention to
its environment. When a man has made a definite study and feels he can duplicate
the wild product, coming close to it with his garden, he can make the cultivated
plants "wild" by providing the same conditions as he found them in the forest.
Men and women who have spent their lives outdoors are naturally better equipped
to begin a successful venture in the culture of ginseng than any other class of people.
This is because they, from special contact with the plant, know its requirements.
Small area land owners, engaged at such enterprises as raising poultry, fruits,
vegetables and similar, who are interested, may add a small garden for raising
ginseng and find it profitable. To them it would prove a lucrative side-line that
would be mighty interesting. Along with the know-edge gained, the garden size
could be enlarged.
The man who has favorable forest land should derive a nice income by having his
garden in the woods. Trouble will probably develop from thieves, but care could be
exercised and stealing prevented. With one to five acres surrounded with thief
proof fence or by similar protection, the natural requirements are there for a very
successful ginseng garden. The shade is natural, the mulching, too, is as it should
be. All that would be necessary is see to he drainage, arranging of beds, paths to
walk between beds, and to remove all excessive undergrowth which would hinder
the work, trim the low limbs from the trees to allow free ventilation and room walk
and work beneath. Make the beds rid clear out unnecessary trees and roots y
grubbing up the ground. All the elements are here to produce roots of a wild
quality, as the method of growing would be so similar to those growing in the wild
state. This is the type wanted by the Chinese, and they are willing to pay high prices
for. This is the natural way of rowing ginseng and if located and handled right, it is
to be debated if it could be improved upon.
All diggers when after the wild plant, could avoid unearthing the young plants.
After they dry, there is hardly anything left. And the lowest possible price is always
paid for them.
The possibility of so many entering the game of growing ginseng that such quantities
will be raised that the surplus will glut the market and cause prices to decline to
$1.00 or less per pound is unlikely. The fact that so many enter the enterprise of
ginseng raising is no indication that so many succeed. Most go into it blindly,
without study, without knowing its requirements. And they fail. It is no wonder. If
ginseng could be raised as you would raise potatoes, then the Chinese market would
easily be flooded. However, that is not the case. Ginseng will forever be a plant
some will not understand. Because it requires an intensive insight into its basic
essentials of growth, there will not be many take time to learn.
So many who attempt to raise ginseng, will go right at it, without knowledge,
without study, without knowing what to do, and they won’t succeed. To go slow and
build their business from knowledge gained from actual contact with the plant never
occurs to them. Failure can only be their reward. There is considerable money in
the cultivation of ginseng, but not for this type people.
Growers in the industry have tried and succeeded. They have profited from their
mistakes. There is no trick nor secret to growing ginseng. The requirement is study
of the plant's nature. When that is known, you have the key.
When selection of a plot in the woods has been made, be sure the plants are never
set too close, as this may cause disease and its rapid spread, from too much
dampness. Eight inches each way is about right.
The reason outdoor men, naturalists, hunters, trappers, fishermen, and even
farmers, succeed at ginseng growing is because they are used to the open spaces,
they know the plant, where it grows, what it needs to make it grow, the conditions
under which it best thrives, and this type people take readily to its cultivation.
Southern ginseng planted in the north will doubtless experience trouble in ripening
so late as to be killed by the early frosts. Likewise, the same trouble develops when
you plant northern ginseng in the southern states. It often comes up so early that
the spring frosts may kill the plant. However, a few hundred miles north or south
does not seem to materially interfere with its growth and getting adapted to the
When you pack the seeds away for the winter, you should be careful that they are
kept in a cellar or basement where they will not freeze. You should be watchful that
the sand or woods loam you have packed them in does not dry out, neither become
wet. Either condition may cause a loss of the seeds. The right condition is have it
moist, in order to keep the seeds in the best condition. You may empty, sift out the
seeds, once a month and note the state of the seed. Also it is helpful to the seeds, this
airing them out, then repacking them in layers and returning to the cellar for
keeping. When the seeds commence to crack open, they are ready for planting. Seed
gathered this fall will not come up next spring, but must be stored away and kept
until the following spring. Sowing them the fall following the fall they ripen will
have them ready for coming up in the spring. When ordering seeds from growers,
get seeds that have germinated, so they will come up quicker.
While a bed of well rotted manure will bring up the seedlings looking robust and
strong, it often happens when left the second year that the plants rust and, if this
procedure is followed, trans-plant the young plants the first year to avoid it. If left
till the second year it may be transferred to the permanent beds. When the tops
have died down, the roots have reached their greatest growth possible that year.
They are ready to be dug.
If in doubt whether your soil is acid or alkaline, where you intend growing ginseng,
send a sample to your druggist or a laboratory for testing.
It is a good idea when disease has hit your beds, sterilize the soil before attempting
to raise the plant any further. The formaldehyde treatment is suggested elsewhere
in this manual, and is to be recommended.
CHAPTER 14: GINSENG HOW TO FIND IT
Half a century ago, on account of the plant being more beautiful than it is today.
ginseng was not hard to find. Little ground was cultivated by the farmer. Great,
extensive woodlands stretched out for miles in all directions, broken only
occasionally, with here and there a farm house, with cleared ground consisting of a
number of fields of a few acres each. Today it is different. Much of the land has
been cleared away, giving the farmer more room for his crops and gardens, leaving
less for thicket or woodland. This is one of the basic reasons why the plant has
taken a "back seat" in abundance. What few woodland tracts that remain
unaffected by the farmer still has a few stalks of ginseng, but it's easier to scour
these and keep the supply low, than formerly it was to look over a much larger area.
It used to be only a matter of knowing the plant, to find it growing in patches, but
today it is different. When found in patches it's in some hidden ravine, or out-ofthe-
way place, which has for years been overlooked. The majority of plants now
found grow single or only a few together.
Years ago, though the price paid per pound was low, ginsengers scoured the woods
far and wide, rarely bothering to dig single plants, unless of immense size, as all that
could be carried could be dug from large patches. Perhaps it was a lack of foresight
in the "old timers," in their failure to plant back the ripened seeds, leave small
plants, gather only when mature (namely, August, September, and October), which
caused a fast diminishing of the wild supply, from the woodland tracts. This is to be
regretted, though it would possibly happen today among many. Perhaps we should
not blame those old pioneers, who dug roots as a part-time occupation for a living,
as modes of making a living in the country those days was limited. However, a
greater supply would have been growing wild if conservation had been practiced
However, as a general rule, the root digger has not been wholly to blame. As
mentioned before, the clearing away of vast sections to give way from forestland to
crop-land, was much the cause. The land cleared up for crops made less land
suitable for its growth. How then could it grow? In some parts of the country,
where ginseng formerly grew, the trees have been cut away until not enough cover
exists to shade the plants for miles. This would indicate there are more parties to be
blamed than a certain few. Naturalists, 'who look down their long nose from a
pedestal of a self-lifted life, will smirk and say ''poor ginseng, the digger got it all!"
Perhaps it is like the man who doesn't trap that condemns trapping; the man that
doesn't like to hunt condemns hunting, and so forth. All activities of man is laden to
the brim with faults. Laws cannot obviate a fault.
Ginseng is a beautiful plant. Its leaf-form is symmetrical and a pattern lovely to
behold. In the wild it even appears delicate, though when grown under cultivation it
may appear robust.
The "art" of finding ginseng in the wild is embodied in more than merely being able
to identify the plant. Experience alone will assist you in knowing what is not ginseng
as well as what is. To spot it quickly among the variety of other woods plants
requires skill which can only be born of experience. In other words, to say hunters
advocate you climb upon all the high objects you come across, while hunting the
plant, in order that you might see it further away. The pattern of ginseng has its
imitations but never a duplicate. After some little practice, the hunter is not
mistaken very often. While it is good advice to climb onto objects, whether you can
see "farther, it's also true you must get down on your knees or stoop low, to look
"under" low growing bushes or see beneath the foliage of young growth that has
sprung up among the forest giants. Far above you, you may be able to identify it by
its fork, seed head, or leaf pattern. Once you learn t, there is no mistaking it. On
each prong here are three large and two small leaflets, which comprise the leaf. The
finding if ginseng must be studied.
WHERE TO LOOK
The place to look for ginseng is an important factor in finding it. It is a plant hat
loves the well-drained slopes of wooded terrain for its natural home. As a rule, you
will not find it out in the sun, except where trees have been cleared away from over
its bed, then it will not last many ears, as the sun withers and slowly kills it.
Therefore, to look for it out in the sun could be virtually a loss of time.
Ginseng does not "stand out" among the other forest plants. It is neither noticeable
by its smallness, nor conspicuous by it's giant size. In fact, it is smaller than some
woods plants and larger than others. It's color is a delicate green that sets it lightly
apart from the other plants.
When the territory, over which you hunt, rather steep, you will find it best on he
lower areas. From the bottom of cliffs and bluffs up to half way is the best
(normally) on the north cliffs, while on the south cliffs, it peters out after going a
third of the way up. Of course, the deeper and more shaded the ravine, the south
slope will run farther up as good hunting. A bluff say only fifty to one hundred feet
high may have good prospects all the way ) the top. On high cliffs, look for benches,
for good finds. In the places where the cliff or bluff ceases to drop away so rapidly
but levels off in a bench makes some of the most ideal hunting ground. Oft times,
when hunters have been searching pretty thoroughly, you may locate quite a few
stalks up next to the rim, among vines rid tangles.
In the fall when the branches and rocky creeks are dry, you may find much ginseng
by walking along here, looking for it on other side. You must walk slow, as all you
have to go by is the red berries, which you'll be able to see among the false
Solomon's Seal and touch-me-nots. They grow profusely here, and you must watch
close see the ginseng. One warning, though, the creeks must be where they rush and
not tarry, because ginseng must be well-drained and any water that stands will
present a stagnant situation, where the plant will not grow. Along cliffs -where
streams rush down the declivity, short ravines that begin a short way back, run
violently, ending abruptly, down a short runway, these are good places to look.
Walking along the rim of cliffs, note if a "flat" of land runs out from the cliff, down
below somewhere. If so, you may find ginseng there. The downward pull of gravity
is not so strong here. Jack-in-the-pulpit may, its crimson seeds, catch your eye and
lead you to believe you've discovered a stalk of ginseng, but with a little practice,
you'll be able to instantly tell the difference. The way the seed stem falls to the
ground, the absence of leaves above seeds, makes it unlike ginseng.
By taking your time over likely woodlands, you should find it. A method of covering
the ground slowly, zig-zagging up and down-hill, will enable you to find the spots
which would otherwise be missed. The normal range of vision is limited, by woods
growth and natural obstacles. It is a good idea to travel over every fifty feet of
ground if you can.
Good spots to look is where you notice patches of bloodroot, mayapple (mandrake),
and wild ginger grows. This is the type soil and condition of shade, where you find
these plants in abundance. Possibly "ginseng pointers" will also be present, not
"pointing toward a stalk" as old timers thought, but growing in the type of soil
which ginseng favors, and a "pointer" when you know this characteristic of ginseng.
Where ginseng pointers grow is in the forest where the shade, soil, and mulch is
ideal for the growth of ginseng.
All wooded slopes may contain ginseng. This of course refers to slopes with natural
cover, within the ginseng belt range. Because conditions were the most suitable on
the north slopes, some hunters even concluded it would not be found growing on any
other slope. This, of course, was a fallacy. Any slope affording the necessary
requirements, where ginseng was not exterminated, would be found to contain the
plant. Hunters have made some of their best "finds" in late years along the foot of
south cliffs of deep ravines. This might have been due to other diggers overlooking
It is good to search along stream banks only if the plant can be well drained. If the
banks are steep enough to allow perfect drainage, then the locality may contain
quite a bit of ginseng. Also other good places to look is around old dead tree tops, in
over-grown fence corners, along fence rows (especially rail fences), in sinkholes,
large or small thickets and second-growth hardwoods, around stumps, in briar
tangles, where vines grow thick, in open woodland, and other places. While it does
grow, to a limited extent in evergreen forests, and where oaks predominate, it will
not be found plentifully there. Avoid swampland. The drainage is poor here and it
will not grow.
HOW TO FIND IT
Search out the deepest shades first. It is most likely to be there. Walk slow. Little
ginseng is found while progressing through the woods at a fast walk. It requires
time to find ginseng. Patience is needed to make a success of it. Look in all
directions. Pause often. Sit down on a stump or log and look the near vicinity over
for its presence. Bend low to look beneath branches that may be present to obscure
the vision. Watch beneath your feet. Sometimes it grows "under" the spread of a
larger plant. Other times a rock may have slid down the declivity and pressed it
almost to the ground. It may be found erect and beautiful, it may be marred by
some forest catastrophe. One never knows. Things happen in the woods, same as it
does on the city streets. Second-growth woods often contains quite a sprinkling so
look in all spots where there is any possibility other ginseng diggers may have
An attempt at examining the forest plants by inches instead of taking in a large area
at a time, produces results in more ginseng found. In the late fall the color of the
ginseng plant will be different. The gold will be unlike any other plant of the forest.
In summer the delicate green will not be the same as any other with which you may
compare it. It often happens that plants with a long stem, like ginseng, will be
forced over, and will lay low to the ground, to be passed by if the hunter is not very
careful. The process of "sifting down" of all cliff and bluff debris, will in time force
the plant over. Plants have been found lying flat, their stems under loose rock and
dirt, the leaves a few inches above the ground where, when straightened up, the
plants stem would stretch the leaves up above the forest floor a full twenty-four
inches. Because of this sifting down, caused by the pull of gravity of everything
loose creeping toward lower resting places, root have been found that did not run
straight into the ground, as is natural, but extend back, lying flat beneath the
surface. This of course was on steep slopes.
It is important practice to, as you hunt, turn and look behind you for the stalk may
have been walked over. No matter how hard you look, if not highly skilled at
hunting, you will walk over at least a few. It is easy to walk over them without
noting them, while looking far ahead or to one side. It frequently happens the plant
cannot be seen except from one direction. Maybe you were looking somewhere else
at the moment you passed the spot where it -would have been possible to see the
plant. Stoop and peep under the brush and vines and briars.
If it's fall, the bright red seed cluster, attract the eye, immediately you get where a
clear vision is presented, from the eye-to-plant. Among the smaller growth, inside
big tree woods, is a fine place to locate it. This has been proven on several occasions.
If you were panning gold and you found a few traces of "color," you wouldn't quit,
would you? No, I suppose not. If a real prospector who knew what he was about,
you'd concentrate your complete interest to following these traces to their source,
where you might find the "mother lode."
Why would it be any different with ginseng or any other outdoor activity? When a
nice plant is found, you ought not dig it and rush away without searching the
vicinity where further exploration may reveal worthwhile digging. No, sir, like the
prospector, you will use your head. When ginseng drops its seed, if the plant is on a
steep slope, they are bound to "roll" for a days, at least. Then our place is to look
below the plant, to see if other plants have sprung from the reproductive activities of
the "mother" plant. But wait, not only below, the one you found might be from
some mother plant even above here. You might find a zig-zagging "row" of plants,
a good ways up and down the cliff. Instead of rushing on to look elsewhere, by using
your head, you "hit it rich" here at this very spot, working out from a "trace of
color" just as the prospector would have done with the gold pan.
WHERE GINSENG DOESN'T GROW
The evergreen areas are low producers of ginseng, so let us not waste our time there.
Also the regions where the white oak predominates is a poor section to look over for'
possible lucrative digging. The tough leaves of this oak too frequently choke the
plants out when striving to come up in the spring time, therefore this type, mulching
is unsuitable for ginseng growth. The evergreen tree does not afford enough
mulching, therefore the plant freezes out in evergreen regions.
The swampy localities will produce little ginseng. Ginseng must be well drained, as
dealt with in the preceding pages of this manual, therefore, it is a fruitless hunt. It is
also futile to look for profitable digging in sunny places. Too much sun withers the
plant away. As mentioned before the author found a 32 year old stalk, the root of
which measured 13 1/2 inches tip to tip, growing in the sun. Woodcutters had
cleared away the trees, leaving this old "gentleman" growing up through the
brushpiles that were laying about. The top was yellowed badly and it was doubtful
if the plant would have survived many more years. However, the top had a bunch
of berries in its top an inch through, and probably it was the shading of the roots by
the brush that kept the plant from dying before it was found. Too, it was in a ravine
that run north-south, and the sun did not stay on it so long, in the run of a day.
CHAPTER 15: GINSENG DIGGING
Some readers may consider the digging of ginseng a trite business. However, when
the stalk has been found, its value should not be impaired by improper methods of
digging, as the way it is taken from its natural bed may mean profit or loss.
As a rule, the digger carries the tool that suits his own notion as to what comprises
the modern ginsengers version of what is necessary equipment. Personally, I find
that a garden trowel, a strong one, about answers the bill, where I do my digging.
The addition of a lathing hatchet, with narrow blade, about fills the bill, which cuts
roots that may hold the root so it cannot be taken out whole otherwise. Some
diggers make a tool from a buggy spring, but guess they are rather scarce most
everywhere now-a-days, seeing buggies are few and far between. Others use a hoe
that is cut down to the dimensions found best suited to their locality. There are
diggers who use the Army pick, with hoe on one side and pick on the other. The use
of a light sprouting hoe is fine. Many the author has dug with the use of his rock
hammer pick. There is a lot of fun getting down on the knees to dig perhaps it's
because we are made more humble, and to know Him, when we get on our knees.
Indeed, it is needful we pay. tribute to the Creator, for finding this altogether lovely
and attractive plant.
If you've never dug ginseng before, you should exercise extreme care in digging.
Broken roots, split roots, marred, etc., do not bring the prices of first quality roots.
The stem extends several inches below the surface of the ground, to the bud. From
here the root extends downward, often a foot or more. The best way to dig it is to
make an excavation about 12 inches across and go down until you reach the bud.
Here, with the fingers, brush off the dirt, so you can see which way the root runs.
Try to avoid striking the root with the digger while keeping the dirt away so the
roots will be in view by brushing with the other hand. Farther down the root may
branch off into other directions that will be hard to see unless careful.
The branching of the roots, the different directions the root may take, if it grows in
the wild (where the roots are not trimmed), cannot be determined, though the root
may at times be found to lay on its side, if the slope falls away steeply. The ground
should be loosened around the base of the plant and pulled away. The root may
extend down like a finger pointing below, or it may separate into several branches
from the bud.
There were two roots a young nephew of the author found, that each had five roots
branching in as many directions. Each root was of large size. This was on a bluff
over-looking a hundred yard wide river. As this was his first find of ginseng, was he
a proud boy! I shall never forget that day! Before, nor since, never has the author
duplicated that find!
Work rather tenderly around the roots, to keep from pulling or cutting them in two.
The narrow-bladed lath hatchet is ideal for cutting roots. After the roots come free
of the soil, pinch off the top. If the seeds are ripe, place these back into the
excavation and cover with an inch or so of rich loam, spreading a leaf mulch over
the top. All small seedlings dug up while unearthing the main ginseng root should
be set back out while damp, to eliminate the likelihood of its perishing. When doing
so, you may break off the top. If the top wilts, much moisture will be taken from
this root to restore the life to the plant top.
On cloudy days, you can see ginseng plants the best. Never become discouraged,
when hunting ginseng and you cannot find it. If you are a beginner, remember it is
rather hard to see, until you get used to it. Then you will be able to "pick it out" like
the skilled hunters can. Take courage in the fact there always had to be a "first
time" for everyone. No one can learn any better than you can. If you are a good
hunter, you will know where to look, when and how. Be patient and you eventually
will be successful.
If there is no one to show you the plant, go out and keep looking until you find it.
Spend every opportunity in the woods. The sun and air are health builders. The
author found both ginseng and golden seal unaided. He referred many times to
pictures in books and from memory, after many discouragement's, found them both
growing in the section where he lived. It is a difficult process, but it can be done, if
you are patient enough. That is the basic requirement. Descriptions that are
infallible and good photos help a lot.
On the ginseng plant, there may be from two to five or more prongs, stretching out
from the fork of the stem. Only in unusual cases is five or more prongs found on
wild plants. Perhaps it was found rather readily by the old timers, who found old
plants. But ginseng does not get so old today before being dug. Ginseng forks into
separate prongs from the stem at the SAME PLACE. Remember that. No other
plant that has a fleshy stem, to our knowledge, does this. The flower, which later is
the seed-head, comes directly out of this fork. Each prong has THREE LARGE and
TWO SMALL leaflets. The small leaflets are toward the center of the plant. All
prongs, do not forget this, BEGIN at the same place, jutting out in any direction
from there. The stem of a two pronged stalk of ginseng will look like a big "Y"
where it separates at the fork. Follow those directions and you can't help but know
ginseng. If the plant you have found fails to come up to any of the mentioned
specifications, then it ISN'T GINSENG!
Sometimes from April to May, depending on where and in what locality the plant is
situated, it makes its appearance. The blooms appear in late May and on into June,
and they are in a cluster, from 5 to 20 small, greenish yellow in color, to the plant.
These are followed later, near summer's end, by bright, scarlet berries. Each berry
contains from 2 to 3 seeds. The seed pod ripens and drops when nature says so,
which is like all other plants, when mature. Nature prepares for ginseng in the wild.
The seeds fall to the ground before or during the time when the leaves fall which
nicely covers the seeds over.
Virginia creeper, having five leaves, is often mistaken for ginseng, but it has all five
leaves the SAME SIZE. Also the stem is "woody."
Ginseng grows wild from a few inches above the forest floor, in its early years, to 20
or more inches high for mature plants. The stem is "fleshy" and not woody.
Imitations to ginseng can be mostly identified because most have wood stems.
Buckeye, too, while young, resembles ginseng. But the stem is woody. If hunting
where buckeye is plentiful, and you are having a hard time finding your first stalk,
go elsewhere to hunt. Poison ivy has three leaves, and while it fools very few, some
amateurs ought to know it and beware of it. It can cause a lot of trouble, and may
be mistaken and dug for ginseng.
Frequently ginseng can be spotted because of the fact it appears thinner-leafed and
more delicate than the other forest plants.
If in doubt as to whether the plant you have found is ginseng or not, dig up the root.
If the top looks like ginseng has been described, if the stem is fleshy and not woody
and you still do not know, dig up the root. If it is corky and odd shaped with
wrinkles in it, then it's a good bet you've found your first stalk of ginseng.
A MINIATURE GINSENG GARDEN
Ginseng can be grown in boxes in the house. Just like flowers. The box should be
six or more inches deep and of any convenient size. Get rich loam from the woods,
preferably that which grows around old decayed trees. Set the young plants in the
box in the fall, or sow germinated seeds. Place in a cellar through the cold months.
When spring comes, remove from the cellar to a shaded place, near a north window.
Give plenty of ventilation, keep the ground covered with leaf mold, and after the
dangers of frost is gone, can be placed in a cool place outside.
TO MAKE GINSENG TEA
To make a tea of ginseng, grate 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoonful dry roots in a grater. Add 1/2
pint of boiling water. Take a teaspoonful at meal times. Good for colds on the
lungs. Ginseng regulates digestion.
The old pioneers used to pluck the leaves of ginseng and chew them or dig the root
and after washing to eat the root while green, this they did to a certain extent. The
flavor of the dried root is slightly bitter, but not unpleasant to chew. It is a
suggestion that the grower or hunter, who has stomach troubles try chewing a few
leaves several times a day. A piece of root an inch or so long, and the size of a lead
pencil can be chewed, and the results noted. The Chinese use much root, carried in
the pocket dry, making a piece the size of a corn grain, to chew about every 3 hours.
Ginseng tea is made thus: select bright, clean leaves. Tie in thick bunches and dry
near the stove until thoroughly cured. Steep the leaves as much as is required, like
ordinary tea. Use sugar and cream if you like. For nervous indigestion, it is
excellent. Store dry leaves in paper bags to exclude dust and light, until needed.
In the mountain forest lands of eastern Asia, wild ginseng is found. The cheapest
grade of ginseng comes from Japan. Possibly the most valuable from Manchuria.
Those from Korea follow Manchuria in quality.
It has been stated it would require many centuries to shake the Chinaman's faith in
ginseng as a cure-all." It would prove a "spring-back" on the Americans, if they
should discover what the Chinese people already had known for scores of years,
since the American people consider the Chinese as superstitious in this belief.
Ginseng found wild in Manchuria is rare and commands exorbitant prices per
It is possible to bring the grade of ginseng up by selective breeding. It would
require a number of years, keeping seeds only from the most healthy, mature plants,
again selecting the best seeds from each seed-head, and up-grading. The fact
ginseng is cultivated in China and the roots are of the finest grade speaks the
possibility the plant can be raised in quality as it is grown in America. There would
be a heavy demand for such roots, and prices would be high. All that's needed is a
few experimenting gardeners who are willing to spend their time, expense and
thought in its care. It would require attention to the seemingly insignificant details
that would change ginseng course into a more profitable industry.
More patience on the part of all growers would mean better quality. Three
important things to avoid in the production of finest quality roots is manuring
(artificial fertilizer), heavy seed-bearing results and quick drying. The potential
growers of ginseng must realize the financial returns from the ginseng gardening
enterprise is not immediately. Several years are necessary before you can expect to
sell the roots, and the seeds you sell may turn out to be of minor importance. Still, it
is an industry that is worthwhile, for him who will learn the proper gardening
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Fred. Page created in June 2016, this post 3/31/2020