Norman Blake first made me aware of the ginseng root, via his masterful recording of the
tune “Ginseng Sullivan”. He released the song in 1972 on the “Back Home in Sulphur
Springs” album. Tony Rice also cut the tune on the “Manzanita” album that has come to
be such a revered classic. “Manzanita” was released in 1990. Ginseng can be found
everywhere these days it seems, from energy drinks to pills in the pharmacy. From what I
understand wild ginseng is very much in demand as it is somehow superior to farmed
ginseng. It takes a long time, many years, for a ginseng root to reach maturity.
There is a story out of China that is noteworthy here. A person from Tonghua city, in the
Jilin Province, discovered in the Changbaishang Mountains in 2003, what experts are
saying is a 300 year old wild ginseng plant. The root weighed in at 366 grams and sold
for the equivalent of $400,000. Now that would have been a find for old Ginseng
About three miles from the back town yard
The river curves on down
Not far south of the town depot
Sullivan’s shack was found
Up on the higher ground.
You could see him every day
Just walking down the line
With his old brown sack across his back
Long hair down behind
Speaking his worried mind.
It’s a long way from the delta to the North Georgia hills
A tote sack full of ginseng won’t pay my travelling bills
I’m too old to ride the rails I’ll bum the road alone
So I guess I’ll never make it back to home
My muddy water Mississippi Delta home.
The winters here they get too cold
The damp it makes me ill
Can’t dig no roots on the mountain side
With the ground froze hard and still
Gotta stay at the foot of the hill.
But next summer
things turn right
The companies will pay high