I was out searching for fall mushrooms with some friends this past week and had an experience that gave me pause to ponder. We went up a very steep ridge of hundreds of feet in elevation and then came down an ever steeper rocky drain. In all, about a 4 1/2 hour trek. At the top of the ridge we went through a known morel patch and found a number of ginseng plants.
I’m not a hunter/digger of ginseng,; however, I have had a long interest in it because of the role it plays in traditional Appalachian culture/economics. Consequently, I tend to notice it when it is around – especially in the fall when the red berries provide a stark contrast to the surrounding foliage. In fact, September 1 to December 31 is the legal harvesting season in Tennessee this year. http://www.tn.gov/environment/natural-areas/ginseng.shtml The Cherokee National Forest has only a two-week season and requires a special permit. Morgan Simmons’ Knoxville News-Sentinel article
This made me recall another instance of finding ginseng in the Spring in the middle of another morel patch that we were picking at the time. Could it be that the best time to scout for new morel patches is in the fall and collect ginseng at the same time to pay for gas? Makes me wonder. The downside, of course, is that this is deer season so stealth may not be the wisest decision.