Plant Some Ginger This Weekend

Most of us love well-seasoned food made with chilies. We cheerfully use them on nachos, chicken, ribs, eggs, and just about every other food. But before chilies were discovered in the Americas, the world was getting its flavor kicks from ginger, a spicy tropical root.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an herbaceous perennial has almost bamboo-like stems growing three to four feet tall with narrow, glossy leaves. In its native habitat produces yellow flowers with purple claws. After flowering, the stems die back to the ground. This familiar spicy root (really a rhizome) has a buff to dark brown skin and grows in clusters, known as “hands” to growers.

Ginger can be grown from fresh root purchased at grocery stores. In the continental U. S. ginger is best grown in pots. Use a rich tropical potting soil. Plant ginger rhizomes in a pot that’s at least 6″ in diameter. Space them about 6-8 inches apart with no more than an inch of soil covering them. This exposes the root to surface heating which stimulates growth and imitates the hot soil of the tropics. Keep the soil moist but not water-logged until the plant emerges from the soil, about ten days after planting the rhizome – more if planted too deep.

Place your gingers in a spot where they can get at least four hours of sunlight. At this time of year, a sheltered porch area will be just fine. Keep the potting mix evenly moist as you would any tropical plant. Once the daytime high temperatures dip below 60 degrees, bring it indoors to a sunny spot.

The one lament I hear from cooks about ginger is that it takes very little to flavor a dish but you have to buy so much at the grocers. Don’t despair, preserving fresh ginger is easy. Click here for my post on how to do this.

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