Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) is known as an unassuming, ordinary plant that inconspicuously grows in the wooded hills and stream areas of Illinois. This herbaceous perennial has been sought after and dug since the times of Daniel Boone, who was himself a ginseng exporter.
Demand is strong for this medicinal herb in Asian markets and in growing U.S. herbal markets, says Tony Bratsch, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. Because of its popularity and value, native ginseng populations have dwindled due to over-harvesting. Wild ginseng hunting is still allowed in Illinois but is regulated by the Department of Natural Resources, with stipulations on hunting season and age of plants that can be legally harvested. Log onto the IDNR website for details: http://dnr.state.il.us/.
Ginseng has long been grown in high- to low-management settings. A low-management method gaining attention is "wild-simulated" production. Bratsch says this method is a simple one and begins by planting in the late fall, usually from late October through early December.
Commercial ginseng production involves raised bed culture, artificial shade, commercial fertilizers and irrigation. The resulting carrot-like quality and large size gained from this pampering brings a much lower market price compared to wild, native root. Whereas a well-cultured root brings $15 to $30 per pound dried, its wild, gnarled counterpart or wild-simulated grown root will bring $500 to $1,000 per pound, depending on current market.
"Wild-simulated production fits many woodlot environments," says Bratsch. "When compared to other specialty crops, wild-simulated ginseng is grown with minimum cost and labor input. For those who want to put idle timber acreage to good use, this system of ginseng growing represents a potential long-term income opportunity."
For information on how to start a ginseng planting, ask for the October issue of The Green Thumb, available from your local U of I Extension office or online at monroe.extension.uiuc.edu.
Source: Pamela S. Jacobs, County Extension Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pull date: October 31, 2009