Last week, I got to tour this lovely piece of land that Left Fork Farm owners Emil and Eva call "a paradise in the hills of West Virginia". On this farm, the earthy retired-from-government-jobs couple grow lots of "seng" in addition to many other medicinal herb plants. I shouldn't tell you where to set your Garmins though because one thing I learned is that ginseng, also known as "forest gold", is susceptible to theft, being such a valuable crop. But, despite the high price that roots may fetch, it's sort of complicated. Some other facts I learned...
- Ginseng is picky about growing conditions. Mostly shaded mountain land is best.
- Ginseng is a tonic and adaptogen. See here for more about health benefits.
- Ginseng needs to be "hunted". Look for indicator plants such as ferns, to help guide you to areas where ginseng may thrive.
- You need a permit to dig. Theft is the number 1 problem for big growers. Ginseng must be sold to buyers, who will ask for paperwork proving where the roots were harvested. If roots are stolen, growers will inform buyers who will keep an eye out for the stolen roots.
- The couple sum up the process of growing successfully in a few steps:
- Find the right land.
- Plant 6,000 seeds the first year.
- Wait 7-10 years.
This was a stream that our bus had to cross in order to get to this middle-of-nowhere property!
Can you imagine if this were your backyard?!
The vegetable garden and a gigantic patch of holy basil. At the end of our tour, we got to have some cookies and Eva's holy basil tea. It was interesting and quite good - sort of cinnamony, but with a very different aftertaste.
Above and below: this is the black walnut operation. The couple has been collecting black walnuts...
The black walnuts are opened with a corn husker. The nuts are washed and sold in portions as you see below. They also crack the nuts and sell the fresh walnut meat to area restaurants. The outer green rind of the black walnut is made into a tincture that is given to dogs as a dewormer!
Herbs drying in the drying house...
The process of making Eva's concoctions...
Ready for sale!