There’s gold in them thar hills! Ok, maybe it isn’t exactly gold, but to the root hunter, it is pretty close.
Ginseng season opens in West Virginia and Kentucky on September 1 and runs through the end of November.
With the dried native herb selling for anywhere from $400 to $900 per pound in recent years there is plenty of incentive to get out and do a little sengin’. It is great exercise and can be quite a payoff if you know what to look for.
It can take upwards of 100-150 roots from mature plants to weigh a pound once dried, but find a couple of good patches and you might just make it. Only mature plants are legal to harvest during the season and there are several guidelines diggers should follow.
Plants should have at least 3 prongs, or stems, with at least 5 leaves each. The season is set so that most plants have had time to fully grow for the season and seeds or berries have ripened and must be planted where the plant is harvested.
This helps ensure that there will be ginseng left for future generations to find and make use of. Ginseng has long been sought after for its medicinal purposes and is highly sought after in Asian communities for all sorts of uses.
It is this demand, both foreign and domestic, that drives the price for the roots up. As with most things as the price goes up, so does the temptation for over or illegal harvesting. Just last year several arrests were made and over 180 pounds of illegal ginseng were seized in a single investigation.
The ginseng was valued at approximately $180,000, if obtained and sold legally. It is a sad truth that as the economy in rural America takes a down turn, often the poaching and other illegal activities begin to rise, which only serves to further take its toll.
If you are new to the sport of ginsenging, or even a seasoned veteran, there are a few things to remember to make sure you are doing it the right way. It is illegal to harvest or possess ginseng prior to the September 1 opening date.
It is illegal to dig ginseng on any state owned lands. If you are hunting ginseng on private land, you must have written permission from the landowner.
Roots can be sold from September 15 thru March 31 of the following year. Any roots to be kept past March 31 must be weighed and certified by a registered dealer and must be accompanied by the issued certificate.
A list of registered dealers can be found online at www.wvforestry.com or by calling 304-558-2788. So don’t be caught out digging in the wrong. A good day in the woods can easily go wrong if you aren’t playing by the rules.
If you are looking for a way to offset your hunting addiction, or just like being in the woods for any reason, give ginseng hunting a try. Once you learn what to look for the plants are fairly easy to spot, but just like anything else it takes practice.
A quick tip to make note of is that later in the season ginseng leaves will often turn from their normal bright green to yellow and the plants will look almost golden out through the woods upping your odds of finding them. Maybe there is gold in them thar hills.
It can be a lucrative adventure once you get the hang of it. Just always keep an eye out for our creepy crawly and slithery inhabitants as you are out stomping around in the woods. Give them plenty of space and just keep sengin’.