Berries – Field and Forest
Late August is a special time for ginseng growers in Marathon County, WI. The arrival of the ginseng plant’s berries is a sign that the harvest season draws near, and simultaneously thousands of Wild Ginseng hunters are scouring the woods across the nation for the most valuable ginseng in the world.
In our fields, groups of workers are beginning to manually pluck those berry clusters from the plants and collect them in their baskets. From there, they will be transported to our new farm facility which is the hub for creating seeds and sending them through the stratification process. Each berry contains up to two seeds, and a mature ginseng plant may yield between twenty and thirty seeds every year. Through stratification, we are able to store our seeds throughout the entire winter so they can be used for next year’s planting season starting in July.
Harvesting berries to create a seed stock is important for two reasons: we are able to maintain our own stock for future harvests, as well as offer our seeds to aspiring ginseng growers around the nation; and, when the berry cluster matures and is harvested, the potency of the root increases as the plant is signaled to send its resources downward. For that reason ginseng farmers in Marathon County will wait until the end of September to harvest.
For Wild Ginseng hunters, the arrival of ginseng berries makes the search significantly easier. In the viridescent forests of Wisconsin, the bright red clusters are far more telling of the presence of ginseng than the plant’s other physical characteristics. Hunters have a fairly small window of opportunity to find, dig, clean, and sell their Wild Ginseng (legally).
But for some, finding it is over half of the battle. In Wisconsin, places like the city of LaCrosse and many towns along the Mississippi River in Southwest Wisconsin are still the leading areas where hunters can still find ginseng in its natural state. Outside of Wisconsin, the most abundant source of Wild Ginseng is the Appalachian Mountains in an area that span from New York to South Carolina. There, hunters and poachers alike take part in the fast-paced and often lucrative Wild Ginseng hunt.
Certain social blights have marred the U.S.’s Wild Ginseng trade’s reputation in recent years. In the opening week of Wild season in 2015, a North Carolina farmer reported that over $6000 worth of Wild Ginseng was stolen from his property. It is a situation encouraged by over-dramatized reality TV shows such as ‘Appalachian Outlaws’ and will likely continue as the price of Wild Ginseng per pound remains high.
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