Someone asked about growing ginger, or more likely I volunteered the information. My knowledge is quite limited on the subject but what I have learned about it in the last few years has been fun and valuable. Now I know ginger is more than a powder from the spice shelf. However, using what is available in a little jar is also nice.
Many people are interested in growing ginger for more than one reason. This funny looking root as shown below is not only for culinary purposes; it belongs, in my opinion, in every kitchen and near the back doorstep. Other uses are for healing and the pure enjoyment of the plant with its fragrant blooms.
True Ginger is what we see offered in the supermarket for use in cooking. When you choose a root (actually called a rhizome) to purchase make sure it is not shriveled and has nice smooth skin. It will keep for a week or more if refrigerated and some people just freeze the root for later use. I find it’s medicinal use to be so valuable that I rarely have a piece to shrivel or freeze.
Once you cook with fresh ginger you will want to keep it on hand. It has a wonderful pungent peppery flavor, essential in Asian cooking and many common desserts. The light brown skin should be removed before grating the root for your favorite recipes. The skin comes off easily by scraping the ginger with the edge of a teaspoon. To shred the root finely, use the small grid of your cheese grater or purchase a grater made especially for ginger. You will want to discard the fibrous part that is left after grating. The useful part will be a juicy paste and remember a little goes a long way. I will share a recipe for fresh gingerbread this fall. It’s a wonderful breakfast treat served warm and is also perfect with fresh whipped cream for an afternoon tea.
About it’s medicinal use: If you think the sniffles are sneaking up on you try a cup of ginger tea. You can either grate the root into a cup or slice off several slivers with a sharp knife. Pour in steaming water to fill the cup and allow it to steep for ten minutes or so. If your throat is already sore add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, stir often and sip slowly. Ginger is also known to be useful for motion sickness, indigestion and sore muscles. It has been called the “universal medicine”. My advice here is not intended for medical use and only represents my opinion. I think you will enjoy researching this plant as I have.
Growing ginger outside is easy and rewarding. It likes rich moist soil in warm conditions. Select a nice large tuber from the store, springtime is best. The tuber should have several eyes and it grows similar to a potato. Plant your ginger root in a pot with a drainage hole using good quality potting soil. Cover the tuber with only about one inch of soil. In a few weeks you will see a sprout resembling a lily plant. Children enjoy this project, as sometimes the ginger will grow almost an inch each day. You should wait 3-4 months before harvest but I have found that I can pull up the tuber and steal a slice or two then replant with out harming the growth. Keep the pot outside in a spot that has afternoon shade; direct sun is too strong for this tropical plant. It will not be hardy enough for winter but will grow nicely indoors near a warm sunny window. There are other types of ginger that offer beautiful blooms in white, pink and red. The common “Butterfly Ginger” is readily found in gardens throughout the south. This type is hardy enough in zone 8 to withstand the winter if mulched. We have a large bed here at Holly Hill. It blooms in late summer with clusters of white orchid looking blooms. There is a large vase full today setting on the piano and scenting the whole house. If you don’t know about ginger I hope you experiment soon.