Bookseller Blue Collar Review: Shin Shang & Sugarin’ | Comments

It’s getting hot, and that means it’s sugar time. I grew up loving the woods and the wild things in them. I thought every ten year old knew the difference between a rainbow trout and a largemouth bass and could identify a woodpecker. I knew rattlers weren’t poisonous, but poisonous, and you don’t get milk from a bull.

I think modern man has detached himself from the earth. Of course, he buys and sells it. After all, it’s a great investment. They don’t do anything anymore. You see, the earth does not belong to man (and by man I mean humanity as a whole), it is the other way around.

Man belongs to the earth, to the earth. I believe the spirit of a place can call a man. Some people belong to certain places. Blood calls to blood and spirit calls to spirit. It sings for you, attracts you and once it holds you within reach…. Well, I’m getting ahead of myself again.

I remember enjoying the bounty of the land with my grandparents – leeks, real maple syrup, venison, wild strawberries and shin shang. What is shin shang? This is one of our region’s best kept secrets, American ginseng.

Wild American ginseng, Panax quinquefolium, is native to southern Canada and the eastern and midwestern United States, and the book “Ginseng, How to Find, Grow, and Use America’s Forest Gold” by Kim Derek Pritts will tell you everything you want to know about it.

The book covers topics such as: the cultivation of ginseng, the history, harvesting, hunting and conservation of wild ginseng, and the use of ginseng in traditional herbal medicine.

North-central Pennsylvania is farm country, and most farms in these areas once had a sugar shack. Vermont could get better promotion and produce more, but there’s nothing better than Grandma’s pancakes topped with homemade syrup from the farm. If you have a penchant for homemade and want to try making your own, then Rink Mann’s “Backyard Sugarin’: A Complete How-To Guide” will show you how.

This book tells you how you can make maple syrup right in your own backyard without having to build a sap house or buy expensive buckets, holding tanks, and other accessories. Think of it like sugar on a shoestring budget. The author goes over the basics of selecting your trees, homemade evaporators, the boiling process, and includes tips from little sugar makers across the country.

Yes, it’s good to remember where our food comes from – groceries are more convenient and can fill an empty stomach, but nothing beats the food you’ve hunted and gathered yourself to feed your spirit. it is venison, fish or fern ferns.

Yes, north-central Pennsylvania has a taste all its own, even if it’s seasoned with only a hint of nostalgia. Heck, I could even show a flatlander how to milk a cow. Of course, I could forget to tell them the difference between Bossie and Ferdinand….

Back to work tip: I love it when friends and co-workers share the generosity, but in zucchini season, ask before you drop a zucchini. You know who you are…

Kevin Coolidge is currently a full-time factory worker and part-time bookseller at From My Shelf Books & Gifts in Wellsboro, PA. When he is not working, he writes. He is also a children’s author and creator of The Totally Ninja Raccoons, a children’s series aimed at reluctant readers. Visit his author site at

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