The Wisconsin Ginseng Harvest is underway! Preparations for the ginseng harvest usually begin in September. The shade cloth sheltering the ginseng gardens is peeled away and stored so that it will not be damaged by heavy snow. Gardens that are still too young to be cultivated will be insulated from the frigid winters by blanketing them in fresh straw. (A ginseng garden is like a simulated forest. The posts that support the shade cloth are like the trunks of forest trees, the shade cloth is the canopy, and the straw is like the layer of leaves that would fall in the autumn and cover the plants.)
For gardens ready to harvest, the posts are removed and the ground is worked with specialised tractors and diggers to overturn the soil and gently uproot the ginseng plants. Crews of harvesters follow behind, collecting the crisp roots from the fresh soil.
The roots are then chilled in a process called 'cooling' that helps convert the sugars in the root and preserve its freshness. After weeks of cooling, the ginseng roots are washed, and dried until all moisture has been removed. Properly dried, or 'cured' ginseng retains maximum potency and can be stored for up to three years.
Growing ginseng is a strenuous process requiring years of vigilance and commitment to yield a single crop. We look forward to brining you another harvest of heritage Wisconsin ginseng soon!