We met this man on the other side of our ridge who maintains his "bosses" vast acreage as beautiful hiking trails. First, you got to understand, quite a few people in this area of North Carolina roll their own cigarettes. Unless you catch the wind the right way, you assume it is the local tobacco they are smoking. He is a very smart man, just seems a little out there. We talk about bears, snakes and all other wildlife in between. We talk about the storm that came through the day before where the thunder rolls and rolls and rolls....it doesn't crackle. Weird! We start discussing flora and he mentions truffles and a few other treasures. Then he says, when not maintaining the property, he is Root Hunting. Ok, I look at George and think....ok. We exchange e-mail addresses and move on.
|Pisgah Mountain View from our Ridge|
Ok, back the the Root Hunting mystery...a day or so later, Mr. Wheeler drives up to check on things on the mountain. You have to understand that this man has been in these parts for a long time and he must be like the 5th generation. I love his dog...and his dog is tickled to sit in my arms! They ride everywhere together and I don't think his truck goes faster the 5mph. No kidding.
Anyways, we were having some small talk and discussing bear hunting season as it was getting close to the opening date. He says...well, the only hunting I like to do is Root. No way, I think...I'm just too dang embarrassed to ask. You all need to remember that I moved to this part of the country when I was 13 and I remember a lot of what the locals did, but this simply wasn't ringing a bell.
Oh, my....I had a 10 hour drive coming up and a charger to keep that phone going. I do most of my research like this. Google ~ I love Google! There, I said it!
American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolium L) is a fleshy root perennial. It is a shade requiring plant, native to north facing slops in hardwood forests and best adapted to cool temperature climates. It grows naturally in the western mountains of North Carolina. WNC is one the largest exporters of wild ginseng to China!!! Seriously?? It is big business. Current prices are about $300 per pound, but during a shortage less than 10 years ago, it was fetching $900-1,000 per pound. There is plenty of research out there and also quite a few requirements....and by the way...you can go to prison for stealing ginseng from private property. Root Hunting season begins September 1 and lasts until the first frost. Now mind you, it's not that easy to find and it takes about 5 years before you are able to harvest a plant. The roots must have all the prongs together. So you can't steal from another to get to your pound. This plant was listed a threatened back in 1975.
I carry my camera everywhere...and I was taking pictures of the local wildflowers trying to build and educate myself and the kids of what's around us.
Once you find a plant and you have established that it is old enough and will have the required roots, you take the red seeds off, crush them in your hand and plant. Then you proceed to dig your roots.
I'm still miffed and excited to go on my next hike. I will look at wildflowers in a whole different way. My sister-in -law Heidi is brilliant with this kind of info and fun to go on walks with. She knows so much; but never shared Root Hunting. Mystery!