This is because the root grows in size every year and older roots are worth more money per pound. While some of the bigger roots may be saleable in five years, the roots will not have produced their full potential.
Do not harvest before contacting a broker or a buyer. Each buyer has different specifications for their market. Each broker, the person who buys for resale to a the larger buyer, may need to meet a different set of specifications. Before harvesting, discuss your operation with a representative of the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources. Regulations pertaining to ginseng become more stringent every few years due to concern for the wild ginseng resource. A license may be necessary to sell out of state or to bypass the broker.
In general, use a garden fork or your fingers to harvest. Recall that well-formed, intact roots can demand the best price. Therefore, always exercise care and be gentle. Know your markets!
After harvesting, wash roots gently with a garden hose and place them on screens to dry. Do not use a scrub brush, just wash the solid chunks away. The natural color of the root is a light brown, so do not try to wash that off. If harvesting when the soil is dry, most of the soil will remain in the woods anyway.
Do not use heat to dry your roots. Air dry them on a screen.
If you have wildcrafted ginseng in the past, many of the older techniques for curing ginseng should not be used today. Some of these outdated techniques are listed below.
Do not heat dry. Never dry in the hood over your range or over a wood stove.
Do not put ginseng on a string to dry.
Never peel ginseng.
Do not pry ginseng out of the ground, gently remove it keeping the roots, even fine roots intact.
Keep the necks (the skinny part attaching the step of the plant to the root) attached.
After the roots are dried, never store them in plastic.