Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ginseng'n: Lookin' for a Big'un!

Looking for Ginseng
     I spent a day with a Ranger in the Resource Division learning how to identify ginseng and why the plant is so coveted. He explained that ginseng is Kentucky's number one cash crop and its sale progression. Apparently, the ginseng harvester can sell the root to a local buyer. Local buyers are typically located within any firearms shop. After selling it locally, the buyers will then resell it to a port or large city at a multiple of the initial buying price. Following that transaction, the buyer will sell it to Chinese or Korean ports at a multiple of the last buying price. Once in the country it is bound for, the distributor can sell the root for very high amounts.

     Wild ginseng has a reputation for a variety of medical uses. The market and price tag really comes from the folklore around the plant. In China and Korea it is believed that wild ginseng absorbs the spirits of the forest as it grows. After absorbing the magic of the wild, its medicinal power can treat anything. The Ranger in the resource division explained how the folklore is so ingrained, people in these countries are willing to pay anything for the root when elders fall ill.

     Many Appalachian people have harvested ginseng roots for supplemental income. They typically wear gloves or knee pads and have a screw driver or walking stick with a metal rod attached to the bottom of it. Another inclination of someone digging is that their knees and underneath their fingernails will be very dirty. I was informed that so many have harvested wild ginseng, it has reached a point near extinction. Within the countries that import the root, the wild plant has already reached extinction. That is why protecting the plant on federal land is so important. At Mammoth Cave, the surveyed plants have been dug up and marked with a colored metallic powder (see picture below). If that powder is seen by any buyer either by eyesight or under black light, they are to report it. Each park or federal land has a unique chemical composition of powder to rub on the root of a ginseng plant. In theory, the powder aids in ginseng determent and monitoring where the plant is poached. However, it is a tall order to monitor and protect ginseng along with all other duties. It definitely has a better chance of being accomplished when it is made a goal across divisions.

Korean Ginseng Root
MACA Ginseng Powder

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