Learn to hunt and cultivate ginseng; celebrate the harvest with the Organic Growers School on Sept. 10

BERRY GOOD: Bright red berries appear on ginseng plants in September making the small leafy green perennials more easily detectable. File photo by Max Cooper

Learn to hunt and cultivate ginseng this fall

Fall is an ideal time to hunt for ginseng and other wild crops in the forest, according to Robert Eidus, owner of Eagle Feather Organic Farm in Marshall. Eidus will host a workshop on identifying, using, propagating and protecting medicinal plants such as ginseng, goldenseal, black cohosh and bloodroot at his farm on Sunday, Sept. 4, from 1-4 p.m. The cost of the session is $80.

Eidus will also introduce attendees to jiaogulan, a ginseng-like plant native to China.  Jiaogulan leaves can be steeped to yield a tonic tea, and the plant is simple to grow. “It doesn’t take a long time to become established like ginseng does,” Eidus notes.  Workshop participants can purchase a potted plant to take home.

Students will learn raised-bed growing techniques for ginseng, including methods for fertilizing and covering a bed in preparation for winter. Eidus will explain ginseng’s special germination requirements. The finicky plant requires 18 months to sprout from seed. If a would-be grower were to simply plant some seeds in a promising spot this fall, those seeds would have only a 16 percent chance of germinating two springs from now. Using a stratification box — which nurtures the seeds in the cold, moist conditions they require — increases that chance to over 80 percent.

Eidus’ work focuses on harvesting and growing wild plants in a way that preserves the natural resource for many years and generations to come. For more information, visit www.ncgoldenseal.com. To register, call or email Eidus at 649-3536 or robert@goldenseal.com.

Organic Growers School hosts annual Harvest Conference

Backyard gardeners, urban farmers and homesteaders of all skill levels are the target audience for the Organic Growers School’s annual Harvest Conference. Now in its third year, the one-day event will run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, on the A-B Tech campus in Asheville.

Attendees can choose among 28 workshops on topics that include fall and winter growing, cooking, fermentation and preservation, homestead skills, self-reliance and herbal medicine. The cost is $45 for the day of classes. For more information, visit the Organic Growers School’s website.

Local, regional and national experts in food, forestry, herbal medicine and sustainable agriculture will be teaching at the event. ​Special guest Mary Bove will present a workshop on kid-friendly herbs. Bove is an herbalist, teacher and lecturer and is also the author of An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants and co-author of Herbs for Women’s Health: Herbal Help for the Female Cycle from PMS to Menopause. Bove practices naturopathic family medicine at the Brattleboro Naturopathic Clinic in Vermont, and she works as an educator and advisory board member for Gaia Herbs and as a formulator for GaiaKids, Gaia Herbs’ line of children’s herbal products.



Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

14 thoughts on “Learn to hunt and cultivate ginseng; celebrate the harvest with the Organic Growers School on Sept. 10

  1. boatrocker

    So readers, I’ve always been curious- what are the laws/legal issues for picking it around WNC? Why can’t some everyday schmo like me just find some and pick it in the woods? Or can I? An older fella I used to know claimed he ran into some legal trouble doing that but didn’t give details. Is it some kind of controlled substance or is it just a matter of being on someone’s land illegally to pick it?

    Also, am I the only who finds it humorous when it is referred to as ginseng ‘hunting’ for being a stationary plant?

    • bsummers

      Ginseng poaching in National Forests will get you 30 days in the hole for your very first offense, in North Carolina at least. Guy last year got six months in prison for being a repeat offender.


      It bugs the crap out me every time XPress or some other local paper runs a story like this:

      “Learn to hunt and cultivate ginseng: Fall is an ideal time to hunt for ginseng and other wild crops in the forest” Like that’s a good thing – to have more people wandering around in the forest looking for ginseng plants to rip out of the ground. But hey, this guy gets $80 a pop for it, so I guess that makes it a good thing…

      Wild ginseng in NC is about to disappear because of poaching!!! And here you have an article about a guy who will teach you how to “hunt” it, with a handy full color picture of what it looks like. Great.

      • Able Allen

        Barry, over harvesting of anything- fish (we are currently doing devastating harm to the ocean fish population), bear (in the 80s we were down to something like a 10th of our current black bear population), anything- is a problem. A little know-how on ginseng might actually help. For instance I have a friend who is permitted to hunt ginseng and he was on the forefront of sustainable cultivation of the wild plants. If he is not bringing in the whole plant for cultivation, he always plants the berries when he harvests, and he only takes the lower roots and replants the upper root with the plant- it is sort of a catch and release program, where the hunter sustainably can sell a valuable product that seems to have health benefits. I don’t know the nature of this workshop, but I am a pretty firm believer that knowledge is key to the plight of the ginseng plant.

        • bsummers

          Able – I am not an expert on this by any means. I would like to hear from someone who is (but is not financially invested).

          But it strikes me as common sense that if you have, as you say, “over harvesting”, the last thing you want is to deliberately encourage more people to go out and harvest. If this workshop in the article was solely about cultivating your own ginseng, great. But it isn’t, is it? It’s about training people how to go out into the forest and “hunt” the existing wild ginseng.

          BTW, the Daniel Boone Natl. Forest in Kentucky has for the first time, suspended all permitted ginseng harvests.

          Ginseng harvesting permits will not be issued in 2016.
          Wild ginseng populations are disappearing across southern Appalachia. The ginseng decline is due primarily to illegal harvest, which includes taking out of season, excessive take beyond set limits, taking
          immature plants, and taking mature plants without reseeding for future growth. In the Daniel Boone National Forest, biologists and other field personnel have observed a decline in wild ginseng populations
          over the past several years. Longtime collectors have also reported the disappearance of ginseng in areas where it once occurred, stating that they now have trouble finding harvestable populations.”


          Is this really the time to encourage more people to go out and hunt the last of the (officially now) “disappearing” ginseng, no matter how responsibly and sustainably you intend to teach them to do it?

          The period to apply for a permit in North Carolina forests has already passed. So anyone going out at this point to look for wild ginseng is risking a $5000 fine, and six months in prison. I hope the person leading this workshop is telling people that right up front, before taking their money.

          • Virginia Daffron

            Barry, as I understand it, Eidus shows students ginseng growing in the forest on his private property. He demonstrates how the seeds can be harvested and prepared for planting. He further demonstrates how growers can cultivate ginseng in raised beds, and he instructs them in the propagation of an alternative plant, jiaogulan, which he says is much easier to grow.

            He is also an organizer of a ginseng conference that will be held in Marshall in November. One of the topics of that conference will be new enforcement standards for wild ginseng poaching, which Eidus believes place the wild plants at even greater risk (instead of being overseen by NCDEQ, complaints will now be investigated by county law enforcement agencies). This brief article is not about that event, however, but about a workshop he is presenting on his private property.

          • Able Allen

            Poaching must be stopped or at least slowed to help preserve this wonderful species. You’re right about that. I am contesting your assertion that our coverage of education on wild herbs is a major contributor to the problem. We believe that we are doing more good for the plant than harm by covering education on sustainable practices.

          • bsummers

            Thanks Virginia, and Able I apologize if I seem too accusatory. However, as I mentioned, I think it might be a good idea to get an opinion from someone who’s familiar with the issue, who doesn’t have the deep financial involvement of Mr. Eidus. No offense to him either, but as a buyer and seller of wild ginseng, he has a very strong personal investment in the area of how much ginseng is harvested. He seems to have a strong commitment to sustainable practices, but at the end of the day, he has a business to run. He seems conscious that he may be involuntarily contributing to the problem of overharvesting and especially, poaching. “I’m allowed to buy from people who steal from other people,” adds Eidus. “It’s the last illegal, sanctioned business in America.”

            You mentioned over-fishing. I worked at a processing plant in Alaska years ago. When the discussion started to turn towards “maybe there should be a ban on halibut for a year, let the population recover…”, you could count on a fight, whether it was the right thing to do or not. One of the local Fish & Game guys came to the plant one summer day, to fill up his ice chest for some fishing on his day off. While filling the chest, I remarked that he might have a more comfortable day without the bulletproof vest on. He said it was not an option. Department policy in his district was that every officer had to wear his vest and his weapon every second of every day, whenever he stepped out his front door, on duty or not. I asked him why? “Poachers”.

            Just encouraging you to cover this from the perspective of someone who would like to see fewer people harvesting, not more.

          • Able Allen

            Thanks! Well definitely take your thoughts under consideration.

          • luther blissett

            “He further demonstrates how growers can cultivate ginseng in raised beds”

            Does he talk about what to do if you find a convicted murderer digging up your yard, like a ginseng cultivator in Boone had to deal with last year? If you own private woodland around Asheville, even if it’s a small lot, there’s a chance you’ll find people skulking around in camouflage with a tire iron looking for ‘sang ‘cuz it’s mountain ways an’ such.

            At least Jake Frankel’s piece from 2013 made clear how things stand. The more people encouraged to “hunt for ginseng and other wild crops in the forest”, the more likely they are to have unfortunate interactions with property owners or run into people upholding their grandaddy’s tradition of plundering the forest for personal gain.

          • bsummers

            Nobody who makes a living off of “hunting”, buying & selling ginseng wants to hear this, but the time may be coming for a moratorium on wild ginseng harvesting.

  2. boatrocker

    Par for the article course I suppose.

    For your comments, until further information I will assume it is not a good thing to put on the boots and traipse through the woods for it.

    Thanks for some knowledge.

    But for real, why is that called ‘hunting’?

    The plant does not fight back or run.

    • boatrocker

      Ah, after said links, I get it.

      Overharvesting, over exposure by telling everyone about it, exceeding the carrying capacity, not doing much to sustain it for the future of the species, selling to the highest bidder for the almighty short term dollar. That’s awful! What sort of greedy free market Mammonite would do that?

      Thank goodness thank only happens in the darkest depths of uncivilized backwoods WNC forests, and not in any tourism based cities that have the light of day shone upon them.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.