Ginseng and the children.

This post started as a serious essay on the cult of health among Asians, Koreans especially. After some research, I decided it would be better as an essay on endangered plants like wild ginseng that have been harvested to near extinction by overzealous Asians obsessed with the supposed health benefits. People like my parents often illegally searched for wild ginseng on protected parklands just to get their fix, never mind that it was becoming harder to find, never mind the future. Then I realized that this wasn’t fair, that every culture has its flaws, that taking care of the environment is a multi-faceted problem that obviously has its roots in the acts of every nation, ethnicity, and human being on our rapidly-dying planet dear God will our children live in a vast Sahara with only tumbleweed for food? WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!

Ginseng in honey

It wasn’t a very funny topic. So I was glad when I remembered that I (try to) write a humor blog, not a blog that makes people poke out their eyes in despair (I try). I’ll leave it to the rest of the Internet to provide you with your eye-poking needs. We might be running out of wild ginseng, but we are NOT running out of eye-poke sites.

There’s a large jar of 20-year-old honey in my parents’ basement. Gnarled, ancient roots of ginseng are buried in the honey, now hardened into nearly black crystals. It’s too valuable to eat. I think my mom planned to bequeath the jar to her future great-grandchildren with instructions to them to bequeath it to their future great-grandchildren.

She caught a terrible cold recently. Since honey had been in the news as an effective treatment for coughs, I hauled the dirty jar upstairs, washed it, and set it in a pan of hot water to dissolve. Whether ginseng really is a tonic or has any health benefits, I can’t say—the literature seems mixed. But I never underestimate the power of the placebo on a Korean woman who believes in the mythic properties of ginseng. (I do know that it can raise blood pressure, so I avoid it. My mom’s blood pressure is low.)

I expected her to argue and wring her hands over my daring to touch the sacred honey, but she didn’t. She ate it and she liked it. She really liked it. I think she’s secretly glad that she got sick and had an excuse to eat it. Maybe she was even faking being sick.

She’s better now, but she keeps dipping into the jar. Ha ha ha. Screw the great-grandkids. Screw the children.

11 thoughts on “Ginseng and the children.

  1. Like I always tried to tell my mother (bless her soul), there is ALWAYS something new to learn through the internet. She believed in the healing power of ginseng, although from what I know, got her fix from the health food store.

    Stumbled here by chance as I was searching for directions on how to plant shiso seeds, only to be entranced by ginseng crystals in decades old honey. Fantastic site!

  2. rowena: I’m glad you stumbled by. Welcome!

    michelle: HA! That makes at least two people scared for the children. It’s nice to know we’re finally getting somewhere.

  3. Your posts are always a little bit tart, sassy and always entertaining! Just so you know, I always think of the children!

  4. So glad you decided to choose humor. I’m not proud of the fact but sheer info osmosis allows me the ability to poke my eyes out at will, should I be so compelled, so naturally, I tend to avoid sites that elaborate the obvious. HUMOR ME, instead, Please! Thank you!

    PS: Love hearing about ginseng in honey. Fascinating. I once came upon a few elderly Koreans deep in the NC woods on a hike and they were very surepticiously (and guiltily) digging up wild ginseng. My German mom went for the sassafras roots, herself. If she’d only known about ginseng, haha : )

  5. Kate: Thanks so much, and I’m glad at least three people are thinking of the children now. I think it will do them a lot of good, being thought about.

    elarael: I love sassafras soda. A good inter-cultural exchange program might be in order.

  6. I worked at a health food store a few years back and learned all about the plight of ginseng one day after I asked, “Why on earth is the ginseng root behind the counter and not out with the other bulk jars?” I feel hip to be In The Know.

    I’ve tagged you for an award! It’s on my site, in the white bean salad post.

  7. Lauren: Thanks so much! I’ve received an award and educated at the same time!

    Maryann: Thank you. :)

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