Thursday 2nd September 2010
Four days in, and we have begun to get used to the way things are run at the Botanical Sanctuary. A huge amount of past effort has gone into setting up marked woodland trails, replantingstripmined areas, conserving local populations of native species, providing facilities for visitors and more. We have remarkable compost toilets, they don’t smell! There are comfortable small bedrooms with screens to keep out the mosquitoes, a huge cooking range and, best of all, a hot shower.
Yesterday we heard all about the conservation and cultivation of ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) from Chip Carroll who lives locally and has run the Intern programme in previous years. He explained that ginseng hunters have been around for hundreds of years. Now the ginseng is protected under CITES since 1975 and can only be gathered in season from 1 September to the end of December (same as the squirrel-hunting season). Only certain amounts can be wild-harvested, but demand is high, especially from Asia, and so some land owners are interested to cultivate ginseng. The plant needs at least 4 or 5 years growth in heavy shade before harvesting, and cultivated ginseng fetches a relatively low price of around $20 per pound. A better price can be gained for ginseng grown in woodland conditions, a wild simulation, as much as $200 per pound. This makes ginseng a potentially valuable crop compared to corn or soy beans or even basil herb. Chip has been involved in educating land owners in the potential benefits of using woodland for growing ginseng, and poviding seed to help them develop this. Woodland owners have to go to some lengths to protect their crop because it is so valuable. For me there is a question about whether we can help herbalists to obtain the better quality ginseng grown like this.
This morning we worked on the kitchen garden, somewhat overgown since the last interns left. In there we discovered culinary herbs of oregano, fennel, thyme. There are also tomatoes, beans and amaranthus seed. Our harvest of Quickweed will not be wasted as it can be eaten as a green vegetable. And the Mint can be frozen in ice cubes, we have to constantly drink water due to the heat. I have been looking out for Jewelweed (imatiens spp) which is said to be good for bites, stings and rashes. I have plenty of those, as the local insect population seem to find my flesh particularly attractive. Rain is forecast which may cool us all down a bit.