Ministry of Agriculture

Ginseng


WHAT IS GINSENG?

Ginseng is a herbaceous perennial. It has fleshy roots with the texture of a parsnip, branched with root hairs and up to 30cm long. The stem has whorled leaves, which are leaves that are arranged in a circle around the stem. Each leaf on a mature plant has five leaflets.

WHERE IS GINSENG PRODUCED IN BC?

Most of the ginseng grown in BC is grown in the Fraser River Valley between Lytton and Williams Lake. There are also plantings in the Okanagan Valley, Thompson River Valley and other isolated spots. Ginseng is susceptible to disease and is grown most often in dry, arid areas.

HOW MUCH GINSENG DO WE PRODUCE?

The first ginseng grower started in 1982. Now there are 135 operators with over 700ha planted in ginseng. Ginseng has been a lucrative crop.

HOW IS GINSENG PRODUCED?

There is a variety of ginseng, American ginseng Panax quinquefolium, that is native to North America. It grows naturally in Eastern Canada and U.S. Ginseng grows in the shade and requires at least 70% shade cover. Growers must construct canopies to protect their plants from the direct sun when it is grown outside forested areas. It takes 4 years to grow a plant to be harvested. From the seed the plant produces a single leaf with 3 leaflets in the first year. In the second year, the plant will reach 20cm and have 2 leaves with 3 to 5 leaflets. By year three, the stem will be about 30cm high and have 3 leaves each with 5 leaflets. By year four, the stem will reach 40 to 60cm and have a whorl of 4 leaves each with 5 leaflets. Yield on average is 3360kg dry root weight per hectare. Seeds can also be collected after the second year. A four-year-old plant will produce 10 to 50 berries each with 1 to 3 seeds. Roots are typically harvested by a machine much like a potato harvester. They are dug up, allowed to fall back to the ground and then collected by hand.

WHAT DOES GINSENG LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?

The root of the ginseng plant is used. It is dried and can be used whole, chopped up, powdered, or as an extract. Ginseng tea, soup, candies, drinks, capsules and tablets are made.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE GINSENG LEAVES THE FARM?

Forced warm air is used to dry roots that are placed on trays which are stacked vertically. Roots are then stored in a cool, dry place. The drying process is critical in production. Improperly dried roots can have green or reddish-brown discolouration which is not desirable. Roots weigh only one-third of their fresh weight. BC ginseng is typically direct marketed from the farm to ginseng brokers. Approximately 90% of the ginseng produced is exported to Southeast Asia. The other 10% is sold in specialty stores in BC.

WHAT CHALLENGES DOES THE GINSENG PRODUCER FACE?

Ginseng is a new crop in BC and the knowledge of conditions in which it grows best is still evolving. For example, there are no herbicides registered for use on ginseng. This means that weeds must be controlled prior to planting and hand weeded after that. There are very few insects that attack ginseng.

WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING GINSENG?

  • Seed growers
  • Ginseng farmers
  • Plant scientists and researchers

Interesting Fact About Ginseng:

Ginseng has been grown in parts of Asia for 3000 years and is used as a traditional medicine. It is called the "elixir of life" and if taken regularly, is said to reduce stress, increase physical stamina, quiet the nerves, enhance blood flow and increase longevity.


Contacts and other resources:
 
Associated Ginseng Growers of BC
BC Herb Growers
BCMAL - Specialty Crop Information
InfoBasket: Your Portal to Agri-Food Information on the Internet
Ontario Ginseng Growers Association