| Wild Ginseng Market Prices 2008 II |
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Matt
Posted on: March 20, 2008
Thanks for your response. The way I see it, you’re right about forest farming ultimately replacing wildcrafting. Harvesting and dwindling natural habitat will ultimately lead to a loss in strain variations. Also, first come and first serve isn’t a fair bargain for the entire community, considering one harvest takes hundreds of years to naturally replace, even after leaving 50% to rejuvinate.
But I have heard that many seed banks are storing endless variations of ginseng, according to natural habitat where found. I as a harvester wouldn’t mind to save the seeds and earmark the places where found and size and type of plants, and give them to a seed bank to secure the survival of variations, instead of plant them in the same hole where dug.
Also, to look at ginseng itself as a medical item, the only reputed effects are the possibility of a stomachic, studies showing it might be an immune booster, and from personal experience, a prolonged effect upon the nervous system that acts as a mild sedative accompianed with drowsiness (not an energy booster or stimulant that marketing ploys would have you believe). With its mild effects and inconclusive evidence, the actual marketing of ginseng all depends on the people wanting the product, not the actual product effects itself. And in that sense, a 4-year old commercial variety cultivated root crop is all thats really necessary to provide the people with actual ginsenosides extracts that they really desire.
The way I see it, a 35 year old ginseng is not that old at all, considering that ginseng growers will leave the majority of their crop for 7-10 year old, sometimes 15+ years. I have seen cultivated ginseng over 150 years old for sale, and wild ginseng 180 years old (catskillginseng.com) The most I’ve ever found was 45 year old roots. As far as quality of root, I’d much rather have a single 40 year old wild root to eat than a pound of 4 year old roots, cultivated or wild. This due to the same superstition the chinese have. A root doesn’t become fully developed until at least 20 years old, in my opinion, and I’d much rather have something coming from high, undeveloped, unpolluted mountains with rich black nutrient rich mountain soil, than something from bottomland. Wild-simulated ginseng is alright if I didn’t have anything else. A beautiful old cultivated root isn’t too bad either. Wild simulated ginseng is where I believe the future is. I’ve not had much experience, but I’d believe a 40 year old root would be indistinguishable from a ginseng root that has been cultivated 20 years and moved to the wild. It may all be superstition, but personally, if I’m getting the flu or such, I like to eat a cure-all (what I and the chinese like to call a whole ginseng, particularly one 25+ years old and magnificent), with great success, the older the ginseng the more potent the medicine.
As far as cultivating, 4 year roots are ok as ginseng, but like everything, the right stuff has to go into it. Particularly age, and a lot of it’s needed, and good quality soil + location, which is easy to find, but can be very hard to come by. As a consumer of ginseng, i say, the growers must meet the consumers at least half way, if not all the way, and provide quality root that can be considered worthy of coming from "sacred land", before the buyers will commit completely to cultivated ginseng and let wild ginseng remain in the past. As far as production, large farms with quality aged woods-grown ginseng could be enough to make wild ginseng a historical object, not suffecient in large numbers to encourage wild-harvesting.
As a wild harvester myself, I find nothing more enjoyable than getting out and wild-harvesting. The heavier roots or hard-work items are alright for a little cash, but when you get a mixture of admiring the plants and nature, and the potential to make some good living money, along with a good exercise, while minimizing the extent of damage done to the environment and plant species, is what I love. Sure there’s only so much out there and I may contribute to the dwindling of plant populations for future generations, I also feel theres certain rights I should have to harvest. If a ginseng cultivator would have a program where a specific wild harvester gets 50,000 seeds a year to replace what was picked, I would certainly plant more ginseng than I could pick. The ease of restrictions of buying the ginseng, and lack of herb reforestation programs, is what will ultimately lead to the fall of wild ginseng. But, put some seeds into the hands of the ones who wild-craft, and it could rebound faster than lightning. I would love to have a little 12 acre chunk of appearently steep and almost useless forest land that i could protect, and i would certianly plant a garden of ginseng, and other beloved herbs, but cannot afford it currently. I love all herbs, trees, insects, animals, nature in total, and feel that everything should have its own place. I’v found many ginseng growing beside poisen ivy, and would certainly feel a loss if something were to come and eliminate all the poison ivy, as I would feel a great loss for all things that have fallen to time. But as for ginseng, it would mean a great deal to me to have a 10 or 15 lb satchel of wild ginseng to sell at 850-1000$ a lb. In certain areas ginseng may be rare, but it seems like you always find a few little or young ginsengs everywhere, and usually 1-4 ounces dry in a 4 hour hike in prime areas, sometimes finding a half pound or 3/4 pound in one spot, leaving the younger or smaller ginsengs for rejuvenation. Also, each good ginseng will produce 10-20 little berries, i believe containing 2 seeds per berry, sometimes more than that. For a ginseng thats 20 years old, would mean that theres a good 10 years worth of seeds still in the ground, in addition to the living berry being planted in the same hole the ginseng were grown. I always replant any small ginsengs, or ginsengs that may be old but grown in compact soil that a 30 year old root is no larger in weight or size than a 3 year old. I’ve seen 2 prong ginsengs that are 37 years old and still yet to produce a seed, and it also seems like theres always small ginsengs growing near the larger ones waiting for a foothold, so digging and replanting helps that plant attain a new level of growth, so those smaller ones can quickly regain the growth the larger ones had, and continue producing seeds. All in all, wild crafting may not be fair to all, but its fair for the ones who compete against each other, but getting to get out and participate in nature, though no way near as profitable as working a steady factory job or even working full time in a fast food restaurant, is very fun and exciting, and the profitability also adds to the excitement, especially if you’re someone who lives pay check by pay check and has not a penny in the bank.
If I had $30,000 or $40,000 saved up, I’d rather admire the ginsengs while on a long walk, only digging for personal use. But as such, not everyone’s a millionaire, and not everyones sleuth enough to secure a fortune while young and have enough money in the bank to live on for the rest of their life. There is a upside and downside to everything. I apologize for the long letter, I can ramble on forever trying to make a point. Upside and downside to everything! While not every wild crafter can come up with an argument, I feel my sentiments are what many wildcrafters feel. While many people feel that wildcrafters are up to no good, I always wish that nothing bad ever bestow on anyone or anything, even the minute, smallest members of life.
Thank you for your comments about wild verse cultivated ginsengs. Current studies show very little difference in the root from a forest cultivated 4 year old root and one from the wild at eight to ten years old. The diameter of the root, however, is one of the 32 points to grade roots.
In fact, your arguments are wonderful, showing you are a true "fisherman" metaphor to why most fishermen fish. Not to catch fish, but as an excuse to be outside and in the wild. Until true sustainability is reached, our environment will continue to change. It is about a way of life, and a set of specific moral codes of ethics. The key word is intentionality.
Again, thank you for your comments and opinions. Is there any other way I might be able to help you