Ginger is a widely used herb harvested from the roots of the plant for not only cooking methods, but also teas and multiple medicinal uses. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory herb and used for a multitude of ailments such as fevers, arthritis, blood pressure and recently has been found to have cancer suppressing/fighting abilities. Fresh ginger’s light spiciness, tangy freshness, warmth and mellow sweetness will compliment a wide range of fusion cuisine and work in conjunction with many other flavors.
Choosing a location: Ginger is actually a tropical plant and cannot tolerate cold or frosts. Be sure to get your ginger planted after the last spring frost. If you live in a more tropical climate, start at the beginning of the wet season. You can also get a jump start on the season by potting the ginger indoors while the weather is still on the cooler side. Ginger has the best success if grown when the temperature is around 77 degrees and a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
1) Cut your rhizome(s) similar to potatoes in 1 to 2 inch pieces. Be sure that at least one eye or bud is included. Leave the pieces in a dry spot for a few days. This will allow them to heal/callus over which will reduce the risk of infection.
2) Select a spot where the ginger will receive full or partial shade and little to no direct sun. Mix some garden soil with an equal ratio of well rotted compost for a good high quality growing environment.
3) Plant your growing tips with the eye(s) facing upwards and then cover with about one inch of soil. Eyes (or growth buds) are the little horn-like ends to the root.
4) Space your tips in a row and 15 inches apart from one another.
*Tip: Potted ginger is planted the same as in ground but can be easily moved indoors if the temperatures fluctuate frequently. Be sure your pot is at least 12 inches deep.
Watering: Ginger does need a lot of moisture while actively growing but will not survive in standing water. Water sparingly until the top growth develops. Keep the soil damp up to the last 1-2 months and then stop to create a dry season. This combined with the day’s length will encourage the proper rhizome formation. Stems of the ginger will turn yellow in late summer or early fall, this is a good indicator to stop watering.
If growing your ginger in the ground be sure to mulch it thickly to help keep the ground moist. Mulching will help to feed the ginger as it breaks down and will keep competing weeds away.
Fertilizing: Providing the ginger is being grown in a rich, good soil there should not be a need to fertilize. If your soil is lacking in nutrients or you receive heavy rainfall then you will need to feed it regularly. Work some organic, slow release fertilizer into the soil when you plant then you can switch to a fish fertilizer or seaweed extract.
Harvesting: Ginger will have a much stronger flavor when allowed to develop in the ground. Roughly about eight months after planting and when the stems die back, dig up the rhizome. Leave some of the eyes behind so you do not kill the plant and keep replanting for more ginger! Plant the new fingers or wash and store them to be used at a later time for cooking.
*Rhizomes that have been left in the ground or re-planted will not require any attention or water until the weather warms up again.
Storing: Freezing your harvested rhizomes is typically the best way to keep the ginger fresh and available for year round use. Take out the ginger and grate what you need from it and return it to the freezer again.
When using ginger that has been stored for a long period of time be sure to check it for bud scales that turn purple. Remove these hardened scales before candying, pickling or fresh recipe use.