Fall brings new and dependable things to the ole farmstead and house. Unfortunately this year, because of the COVID situation, some will not happen.    


September in Kentucky means we have entered the legal season to hunt and harvest wild ginseng. For the hunters of this plant, it can mean a large pay day, if they are good at it.

Almost all of us have heard of ginseng, whether it be as a wild plant to hunt and make money from or as a nutritional supplement in that section of the pharmacy or as an additive in some health foods or drinks. But do you really know what it is?

Ginseng is a native plant to Kentucky that grows wild in the woodlands and forest across the state. It is considered an herb and has been used for medicinal purposes in China for centuries. The root is the part of the plant that has value and is desired.

Wild ginseng can be hunted and dug from Sept. 1 until Dec. 1. This applies even to one’s own property, just like various wildlife hunting seasons.

There are even start dates for buying ginseng, which you can only do if you are a licensed dealer in the state. Harvesters can only sell to licensed dealers. If you sell to anyone else, it is illegal and if caught, there are penalties, and people are caught every year doing this statewide. As for selling the root online, that can only be dome legally if you are a licensed dealer and you must have a state-issued Export Certificate, as well.

You can start selling/buying green (non-dried) ginseng on Sept. 1, but have to wait until Sept. 15 to sell/buy dried root. April 15 is the deadline for certifying the previous fall harvest. The annual dealer licenses are valid from Sept. 1 until Aug. 31 of the following year.  

There are regulations governing what plants can be harvested. Plants must have at least 3 prongs of five leaflet clusters to be legal. For each leaflet cluster, there will be a prong, or branching, of the root. Roots with a minimum of three prongs are required to be legal to sell, or buy, if you are a dealer.

To hunt ginseng, you need the land owner’s permission. Of course, during the legal season, you can hunt on your property as you please.

I called a couple of local dealers and one said they are now paying $10 an ounce for green ginseng, which is $160 per pound. The other said on the 15th they anticipate paying $450 per pound for dried ginseng.

While not endangered, ginseng is protected to ensure there will be ginseng for future generations. If protections were not in place, all the ginseng would be harvested in a few short years, leaving none to replenish for the next generations.

Black walnuts

Another fall woodland crop, which we have in abundance, is black walnuts. They will be easily spotted through October.

Walnuts will start falling from the trees any time, and if you have a few trees close to your house, you have to rethink your vehicle parking location to avoid the walnuts bombing your vehicle.

When a green walnut with the hull still on it falls from the tree, it can definitely put a big dent in your car hood or truck roof. But they taste so good.

There is also a definite market for them if you can gather enough to sell. I have had people ask if they could gather mine out of my driveway, and I have let them since I do not have enough patience to crack them and get the meat out.

Black walnuts must be hulled before taking to the buyer. The hull is the green outer covering around the small shell inside. This is the part of the nut that will stain your hands and does not wash off; it has to wear off, and that can take several weeks to be gone fully.

If you do gather and hull walnuts to sell, the going price is $15 per 100 pounds. You are not going to see the return per weight like you would for ginseng, but I can guarantee you can gather a few hundred pounds of walnuts faster than you can put together a pound of dried 'sang, as it is called.

I see a lot of walnuts falling and laying on parking lots and in driveways and yards. Many would be happy to let you gather them instead of having to deal with it themselves. But as with ginseng, always ask the land owners permission first.

If you have questions about these or other topics, give your local Extension Office a call. In Boyd County call us at (606) 739-5184. For ginseng questions and more information, you can go to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and search for ginseng. They have all of the regulatory information on there, as well as a current list of buyers across the state.

LYNDALL HARNED is the Boyd County Extension agent for agriculture.

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