Known as American Ginseng, Ontario is currently the largest producer of ginseng, with the majority being shipped to China and Hong Kong. In fact, Ontario ginseng exports bring in over $80 million to the province’s farmers. Driving through the south west of the province, you’ll see acres and acres of cloth-shaded fields that signal the presence of ginseng farms.
It is mainly used for its roots, whose medicinal benefits ranging from lowering blood sugar to improving immune system functioning. In a major step forward, University of Guelph’s Plant Agriculture Professor John Proctor discovered that applying the growth regulator Ethrel to ginseng causes the plant to lose its flowers, enabling its energy to concentrate on the roots so that they grow faster.
It is typically sold dried, in tablet form or in teas/soft drinks. Requiring 70-90% shade with heavy rain, ginseng is ideal for growth in greenhouses. Potential growers must keep in mind that it will take three to five years for the ginseng plant to reach a marketable stage.
With files from Simcoe Research Station publication “New Crops, Old Challenges: Tips and tricks for managing new crops!” and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.