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West Virginia diggers prepare for ginseng season

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Ginseng season begins Sept. 1 and will run through Nov. 30 in the state of West Virginia.

Mercer County West Virginia University Extension Agent Jodi Richmond said ginseng is highly prized by many Asian countries, especially China.

“It can be used in vitamin-like pills, it can be used in teas. The Chinese make a lot of products with it,” Richmond said. “I’ve even seen ginseng gum.”

Richmond said the Chinese value the small knobby roots, which only occur when ginseng has been forced to struggle resulting in slow root growth.

“If you have good quality roots that are unusually shaped, the dealers will sometimes give you a bonus,” Richmond said.

Conversely, if the roots are damaged or moldy from improper cleaning or drying, a dealer might deduct the amount they are willing to pay per pound.

“In recent years, I’ve seen it pay $1,200 a pound,” Richmond said. “It depends on how much time you put into it.”

Richmond said the Mercer County Trapper and Root Association will bring dealers into the area occasionally to purchase roots from “sengers.”

“The buyers here in West Virginia have to be a licensed dealer,” Richmond said. “There’s not one currently in Mercer County, but they’ll come here.”

Mercer County Trapper and Root Association President Raymond Dishner said that wild ginseng is being threatened by logging activity and theft.

“It’s getting to be hard to find anymore,” Dishner said. “Last year ginseng was selling for $800 and $900 a pound.”

Dishner said his organization held a sale at the end of July, and will hold one Oct. 4 and in November at Mountaineer Lifelines. They will also hold a Root Seminar at the Green Valley 4-H camp on Sept. 27.

“It’s a big trade,” Dishner said. “There are four big buyers in the world and all of them are in China.”

Despite its presence in Asia, Dishner said the reason West Virginia ginseng is in such demand is because it is the best quality…

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