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Ginseng sprouts are long and thin, and refer to the whole plant, from root to leaf. Leaves are bushy and are forest green in color. They grow to around 2.5 centimeters in length upon slender stems. The roots are a creamy yellow beige in color and are knobbly in appearance, measuring around 5 centimeters in diameter. They taper to thin strands towards the ends, measuring grow to 10 centimeters in length. The entire plant is eaten. Leaves are crunchy and have an intense licorice-sweet, strong flavor. The root is tender-crisp, and has a milder flavor than the leaves.
Ginseng sprouts are available year-round.
Ginseng sprouts are botanically classified as Panax ginseng. Ginseng belongs to the Araliaceae family which includes parsnips, celery and carrots. Ginseng is a highly valued medicinal plant that is notoriously slow growing. Ginseng sprouts are hydroponically grown and take just two months to be ready for harvest, thus seen as a good alternative to ginseng root, which takes years to mature. They are considered to have identical medical benefits.
Ginseng is used as an overall health tonic. The sprouts contain a high level of saponin triterpenoid glycosides, for which all Ginseng in valued. These saponins are highly concentrated in the leaves of the sprouts.
Ginseng sprouts may be eaten raw and cooked. They are used whole in sushi rolls, or cut up and mixed into kimchi. They may also be cooked into porridge. The leaves may be used as a garnish for drinks. The whole plant can be blended along with milk and fruit to make smoothies. To store Ginseng sprouts, keep them in a loosely covered container in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator, where they will be good for up to a month.
In Asia, Ginseng is seen as a valuable medicinal plant. Like its more mature cousin, Ginseng sprouts are said to be good for liver. They are believed to be able to inhibit tumors and suppress platelet aggregation, which leads to blood clots. Ginseng sprouts are also considered to have cooling properties, and are taken in the summer to reduce heatiness in the body.
Ginseng was discovered some 5,000 years ago in Manchuria, China. By the 20th century, it was being cultivated in Korea, where Ginseng sprouts now are grown. The sprouts are being marketed as a functional food and are being imported into Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates. The Rural Development Administration, under government of Korea, has designated Ginseng sprouts as a promising export, and is providing farmers with support in the areas of technology and policy-making. Early estimates show that Ginseng sprouts could generate revenue of some 5 billion Korean Won per year.