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Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day; but tonight ... “for all we know,” sang Nat King Cole, “tonight was made for love.” Well, a little Nat King Cole on the CD might move things in the right direction, as would iced champagne, a box of chocolates, a few oysters and, of course, don’t forget the ginseng.

For thousands of years, the root of this herb has been prescribed as a tonic to stimulate health, improve stamina and alleviate stress. Not surprisingly, with these qualities, many believe that ginseng is a potent aphrodisiac. Perhaps it is because , when taken from the earth whole, the thick root is often split and suggests a man’s torso and legs.

While Korea has become the most popular supplier of ginseng, the herb has been grown in Canada for centuries. In fact, our climate, which is similar to Korea’s, produces excellent quality ginseng. Some of the biggest ginseng farms in the world are in British Columbia and Alberta. In the past few years tobacco farmers in Quebec and Ontario have begun replanting their fields with ginseng. While good ginseng can take years to mature, the crop promises to make producers both healthier and wealthier than harvesting tobacco.

Classically there is both red and white ginseng. Red ginseng, which is steamed first, is considered to have more yang qualities and acts as a tonic. White ginseng is supposed to have more yin and alleviate stress. White ginseng is commonly given to younger people, red ginseng to those over forty who need a boost. While commonly available as a bitter tasting liquid, ginseng can be added to food just before it is served.

Nora Pouillon, in her book “Cooking With Nora” suggests combining a vial of liquid ginseng, oysters, celery, and shiitake mushrooms (all having reputations for aphrodisia) with a gallon of chicken soup for “a winning combination for Valentine’s day.”

A whole ginseng root in pristine condition is rare and can cost $10,000. Such a gift would be a magnificent gesture and probably suffice to woo a lover. Alternatively, you and your mate might sip cups of Korean tea made from powdered ginseng root and glucose. A box of 10 sealed packets sells for about $1.50. It goes nicely with candle-light, chocolates and Cole.

© Barry Lazar 2000 Email Flavourguy

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