Wisconsin ginseng a prized gift in China
As Chinese New Year celebrations wind down, stores in China will restock their shelves with something from the United States that has become a favorite gift for the holiday: ginseng grown in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s ginseng crop is so valued in China that it has spawned a counterfeit business which threatens to undermine its value and brand marketability, according to Tom Hack, international marketing director for the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin.
“I think that the consumers (in China) recognize that something from the US is safe and the Chinese favor our brand because of its stronger flavor. Ginseng is also a popular New Year’s gift,” he told China Daily.
The Chinese have used ginseng for thousands of years believing that it helps everything from enhancing sexual performance to reducing stress. It is also an important ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Wild and cultivated American ginseng is prized in China and other Asian countries for its potency and taste. Asian consumers believe that American ginseng – especially the Wisconsin product - is superior for its ability to cool and soothe the body while Asian varieties are considered hot and stimulating.
A long winter and fairly heavy snow cover give Wisconsin ginseng growers an advantage. After ginseng seeds are planted, it takes 18-21 months before they germinate, Hack said. Wisconsin’s winters provide cover until the plants emerge in May and then are harvested in the fall.
“We don’t harvest the roots until they have been in the ground for three to four years,” said Hack. “I think this is what gives our product a better quality.”
The state has a long history with ginseng. “Wisconsin was the first state to cultivate and export ginseng to China,” said Jennifer Lu, an economic development consultant with the Wisconsin Department of