Recently I have become very interested in harvesting and hunting wild ginseng. Like most newcomers my interests was peeked after watching the staged Appalachian Outlaws. Up until watching the show I did not know that ginseng could be hunted for and that after reading some rules and regulations that this is in my opinion a serious endeavor. My reason for joining this website being is that I am looking for the best advice that experts and experiencend hunters can give a beginner.
I'll be honest about my motives. I'm a 25yr old man married with a house payment, car payment and my wife's student loans and am looking for a supplemental income to help us get out of debt. Not a city slicker by any means. I do have experience in the woods as far as deer hunting goes.
After looking at the zoning map it appeares that I live in zone 7. Is that a good area for ginseng? My father in law has also been interested in hunting it and owns about 28acres that is mostly oak trees with a few pines spinkled in on the property.
My questions being:
What do I look for? Specifically how do I know that I'm not digging up a poison oak leaf at first?
In regards to private property I know to stay off but as far as public land how do I know if I'm on someone else's spot that they visit every year?
Could I just grow it in my backyard?
Why is the prices so much different on wild ginseng compared to privately grown ginseng?
Thank you for any information that you all contribute. I am looking forward to learning from each one of you. Happy Hunting.
Best thing to do is find someone who already knows what it looks like and go with them. Study lots of pictures and even take some to the field with you if you can't find someone who already knows what it looks like. You can dig on private property, just have to get permission first. You can plant seed on your own ground to grow. The prices paid depend on size, shape, quality, and age. What state are you located in?
Mills has given you good advice. Find an experienced digger.
Forget everything you've seen on TV. Think of digging in ounces not lbs. It's hard for an experienced digger to get a lb. of dried seng in a season. There is a lot of days you'll make a dry run and find none.
As far as growing do all the research you can, most will surely fail, then there is the wait of 10 to 15 years and a lot can happen during that time.
Not trying to discourage but please don't jump to quickly.
Glad to hear you're interested in this great hobby, but if your only motive for doing it is $$$, you would be further ahead getting a 2nd job. Nothing about ginseng is \"get rich quick\". I spent 6 vacation days from work last year, and I got less than $200 for my effort. I went from place to place to place, mostly finding none, sometimes finding some babies. Most people here do it for the enjoyment/relaxation first, comradery with other diggers second, and for the money third.
If you are serious about becoming a digger, you need to know the plant from the tip of the root to the tip of the last leaf. It is a unique looking plant once you know what to look for. Study pictures online of the top, the leaf pattern, the leaf shape, the color of the leaves during different weeks of fall, and know how to tell the root direction when you're digging, since broken roots are not worth anything.
Learn where to look and what types of environment it grows, learn how to dig correctly, be a good steward of what you are digging, and what you are leaving behind, learn how to clean it, learn how to dry it, learn where to sell it. All of this is best understood by finding someone who has done it before, and asking lots of questions. But, if you don't have access to a digger, search through all the posts here in the Forums, mostly anything you can ask has been answered already.
Regarding digging on public land, in my state it is illegal. Know all the laws before you head off into the woods.
I can tell you that it grows in mostly hardwood forests, not near pines and hemlocks. It needs dark shady woods. If you plan on growing it, there is a whole new set of advice you need to follow in order to get good quality roots to grow that will be worth money in 15 years. Roots that are grown in wrong soil or too sunny conditions end up looking like a carrot, and aren't worth any money at all. The good quality roots are old, gnarly, tight growth rings from slow growing, have had to fight their way through other plant roots and rocks to survive for 20+ years. This is a lot different condition that growing it in a greenhouse.
Then, grow some near your home (shaded flower beds work), because the more you see ginseng the easier it is to see more ginseng.
Next, please understand that ginseng is not a get rich quick scheme. Some have made a lot of money in it, but as a digger and just starting grower, you will invest as much or more into it than you will get back for the first 10 years or so. That being said, you are young enough to make it pay well for you in time.
I would agree with others that if you have no experience at ginseng and you really need extra income, you would be better off getting some sort of second job, than wondering the woods hoping to find this elusive plant.
Also... that the best way to learn is to go with someone that knows how to find it. It is not easy to get in good with a seasoned seng hunter though... many of them are very private (and for good reason).
Below is a link to my youtube channel where you can watch vids of actual seng hunts and some of growing wild simulated ginseng too.
Once you study the video's and information on those youtube channels, find a good Pic of a ginseng plant, print it out, and take it to the woods with you. Focus on North to North-East facing hillsides where there are fern present (especially maidenhair fern) and look at your picture, then slowly study the plants in the area to see if you can find a match.
Below is a pic of a decent 3 prong ginseng plant, growing right in the midst of a bunch of Virginia creeper vine. To a greenhorn.. all of that might look like Ginseng, but to the experienced Seng hunter, the 3 prong Ginseng plant will stick out like a sore thumb. The leaf pattern on the Ginseng is what makes it stand out. Notice the 3 larger leaves (per leaf cluster) are pointing out away from the center, and the 2 smaller leaves, are pointing back to the center.
That is the pattern that you will have to train your eye to find.