September 1st marks the beginning of the Wild Ginseng season in Wisconsin. Each State is allowed to set its own parameters for length of season, but since ginseng is most potent after August the trend is roughly the same across the country. Also, with Wild American Ginseng being listed as endangered, the season does not typically last more than two months.
Already, Hsu’s has seen its fair share of Wild Ginseng hunters bringing their fresh finds in exchange for hard-earned money. With the season being short, and the value of Wild Ginseng being as high as it is, thousands of people across the country are searching through anything that remotely resembles a forest.
In its natural habitat on the forest floor, ginseng is able to sustain itself for many years and gain considerable potency as it ages. The only way to estimate Wild Ginseng’s age is to count the ‘rings’ that appear on top of the root. Those rings are actually the lifeline of the root, and if the original root dies, the lifeline, known commonly as the ‘mother root’, will spawn a new root in its place. If a root sustains a series of harsh winters and conversely a series of favorable winters the lifeline will expand and contract based on its conditions under the surface. The fluctuation of size found throughout the lifeline is how we determine the root’s age and thus will eventually be separated by age and size for its use as a finished product.
Rumors of 100-year-old roots are not uncommon, as we may have one of our own. However such an anomaly is something few hunters will witness within their lifetime. Given the amount of Wild Ginseng harvested every year, the days of finding a root of that caliber and age may be over, especially for future generations. That is why the cultivation of American ginseng may become more important than ever in the next few decades.
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