September's Song

| 9/25/2017 9:20:00 AM

Tags: Ginseng, Herbs, Herbs of the Midwest, Gathering Wild Herbs,

 Country Moon


There is no other time of year that it is so magical when the seasons change as it is from August to September. The first few days of September catches us up in two different worlds. Almost overnight, there is a crispness in the air and yet the sun is warm on our backs. We are savoring the end of the garden’s bounty as we eagerly await fall’s offerings of apples, winter squash, and other root crops. Perhaps Jack London best described this magical time as the “sun-kissed September afternoons.”

With everything that fall has to offer, this year I was introduced to another facet of this season. This is the time of year that folks hunt wild ginseng. The much sought-after American ginseng is a perennial herb that is native to the deciduous forests of the eastern United States. The wild counterparts are believed to be much more potent than the cultivated roots, hence poaching and unethical harvesting practices have reduced the supply in recent years.

The health benefits of ginseng are almost endless. It is touted to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, protect against stress, enhance strength, promote relaxation, and the list goes on. It is especially revered in the Orient. There they believe that the older the roots are, the more desirable they are because the longevity is purported to be transferred to the person who consumes it.

Only mature plants are legal to harvest and they take years to mature, but they currently command a price between $500 and $600 per pound. Roughly, it takes about 250 dried roots to equal a pound. No wonder the illegal harvesting of ginseng has become a problem with harvesters slinking through woods in face paint and camouflage and armed with tire irons, screw drivers and hoes. Ginseng is big business.

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