Last week I traded the sunny California for the chilly Wisconsin. I was a little hesitant at first because I didn’t know what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised just how pretty and breathtaking the fall season can be in central Wisconsin. I just couldn’t believe the beautiful scenery that unfolds in front of me.
One of the main objectives of the trip was to tour Hsu Ginseng Farm in Wausau, WI. Wausau produces 95% of the ginseng in the U.S. Hsu and his family have been growing ginseng for the past 40 years. Every year, the family harvest around 500,000 pounds of ginseng and ship it world wide. I’m sure you’ve seen the iconic red white and blue Wisconsin ginseng boxes in your local Asian grocery stores before. To celebrate their 40-year anniversary, the family invited eight celebrity chefs from LA, Huston and Minneapolis to cook up some yummy dishes using ginseng. Here’s Will Hsu, the owner Paul’s son, showing us how to dig ginseng.
Time to get dirty! When digging for ginseng, you have to be gentle! You can use the shovel loosen up the plant and pull the ginseng out of the soil, but you’ve got to get your hands dirty and wipe away the soil around it to preserve all the tiny roots. One of the perks of traveling with my cameraman is he sometimes takes pictures for me! I didn’t think muddy farm field will make a good backdrop, but it turned out so well! The growth cycle of ginseng is around five years. If you think that’s long, then you’d surprised if I told you five-year old ginseng is like a baby in the ginseng family! We saw a hundred-year old ginseng in Hsu Ginseng Farm. Can you believe how slow it grows?! After ginseng farmers pick up the ginseng from the field, a simple bath is all it needs. The clean ginseng is then sorted according to their sizes, dried and packaged or made into different products. Chinese people have been eating ginseng for over five thousand years. Ginseng has so many benefits, it’s great for boosting immune system, calming down your stomach and improving your overall health and wellness. But a lot of people may not like the unique bitter herbal taste of ginseng. Worry not, in the next blog post I’ll cover how you can find unexpected ways of incorporating ginseng in your everyday recipe!