Ginseng Growing Season
The ginseng growing season is winding down now. The plants set berries earlier and most of them have ripened and fallen to the ground already. Some of the plants will soon begin turning yellow most years. We’ve had so much rain and such a mild summer, though, that I’m curious to see if that has affected the way the plants look.
Digging season is winding up for those who aren’t concerned about the prices their roots will bring. We don’t dig roots for market, but if we did, I wouldn’t dig until I knew the prices were good enough to make the time and effort of digging it worthwhile.
In my opinion, it’s better to leave old plants in the ground so they can produce another round of offspring than it is to dig during low demand years. But we dig very few roots at all, and never the old ones. Our focus here is on selling seedlings and seeds, not roots. So our perspective on digging is perhaps a bit different.
Those old ones are the colony matriarchs and they usually set the most berries for new plants. We don’t have enough of the old wild ones left to spare any to sell as roots. Perhaps in a few years or so I’ll reconsider and make limited quantities of our wild-simulated available as fresh roots for local consumers.
But some diggers will just make an effort to dig more, instead. That would make up for the difference in price per pound – just bring more pounds to the market.
Usually low prices of any traded good means there is either low demand or over-supply. The case with ginseng this year, according to the dealers who have shared information with me, is both. The demand is lower because of overseas economy. And there is over-supply. Many dealers still have dried roots to sell from the previous season.
So digging more to make up for lower prices is only setting up the same problems for the next season. It also puts a greater stress on an already endangered plant.
Ginseng Has a Season
Did you know ginseng has a season when it’s legal to hunt, just like deer or rabbits? It does. Season opens on Sept. 1 and ends Dec. 1. There is also “poaching”. Poaching is digging out of season, or digging illegally on private or public land.
The national forests in most states are closed to ginseng digging so it’s considered poaching to dig in those locations. Diggers need permission from private landowners, otherwise it’s poaching if they’re trespassing to dig.
For the past several days, beginning before the Sept. 1 opening date, I’ve passed a parked vehicle on our county road. It’s always parked in areas that look as if they’d be good ginseng locations. Each day it’s parked in a different spot. I’m not familiar with the vehicle and ordinarily the traffic is so low on our road that we (the residents) can usually tell who’s who.
I’m hoping this isn’t someone scouring the woods for ginseng. And I hope they don’t get closer to what’s left of the wild ginseng growing in our own woods. I never see anyone around the vehicle, but I would stop and talk to them to try and find out who they are and what they’re doing here if I did.
Ginseng in September
This is how ginseng looks in September. Today I’ll try to get out to the woods where there is some ginseng growing for some photographs to show you how it looks this year. It’s been dry the past week, but until now the weather has been unusually wet. We’ve had more rain than I can ever remember having in a spring and summer, so I’m curious to see how it’s doing.
Previous Year, Sept. 16, 2015
This Year, Sept. 6, 2016
This ginseng growing on a slope drops berries downhill, so it spreads the colony a little farther from the mother plant than it would if she were on more level ground.
Closer view of the berries
fallen ginseng berries
I’ll try to get another one on the 16th so we can see the same day, different year comparison.