Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Growing Ginger


This actually wasn't one of my thoughts or plans for this month, but it certainly serves the purpose.
I started writing this post and taking photos quite a while back, in fact more than a year ago, but never quite finished or found a good time to post it. I decided to resurrect it.

Last year I bought a large container of fresh organic ginger.
I used most of it.
However, when the unused bit was left alone and forgotten in a cool and dark place, it sprouted.
So, technically it was still... alive.

I asked a gardening expert about growing ginger, but she didn't know, which is, I suppose, understandable.
It's probably due to the fact that there's not much call for growing tropical ginger in temperate Missouri.
A little research ensued...
I soaked the piece of ginger overnight in water, filled a large pot with soil and compost, placed the ginger in the pot close to the surface (bud facing upwards), covered it in about 1/2 inch of soil, and placed it outside.

It worked.

Young Ginger

Ginger needs to be watered frequently. Not so much water that it drowns, but being tropical it's a plant obviously used to humidity. The soil needs to be damp, but it also needs some drainage at the bottom of the pot.
The plant was left outside from about April to mid-October, and when the weather became cold the pot moved indoors for a while.
The great thing is that it was viable. Growing ginger in middle America is not impossible.

Ginger, being a root, won't actually be visible as it grows.
But of course, you'll get some above-the-ground bamboo-like foliage to let you know that it's healthy and growing. The leaves and stems smell nice and gingery- definitely a plus.
And I've read you can steep the leaves in boiling water to make ginger tea.

There is a difference between the older, papery-brown skinned pieces of ginger you will find in the store and fresh young things potted in the back yard.
Younger ginger is less tough and stringy in texture, and the flavor is more delicate, not as strong. To use, dig up the root, cut off what you need, and bury the rest so it keeps growing.
However, I've read that the best time to harvest everything all together is once the leaves start dying. Some of it is saved for re-planting, other pieces can be frozen for later use.

Ginger grows best when started in the spring. But once it's begun, if taken care of it will grow year-round. When you go to the grocery store, just look for a really healthy piece of ginger with small delicate buds on it. They may be a lighter cream color and not covered in the papery skin, they may even be a little green- but the buds will certainly look tender when compared to the more mature ginger.

This was mostly an experiment for me. It turned out pretty well and I think I'll do it again.
It's doable and certainly a feasible option for anyone who might really like fresh ginger and be interested in growing it.

So, the ginger had been growing for 18 months to 2 years. 
I didn't really harvest much until just now when I dug up all of it.  
In large part the reason for this drastic move was because I didn't think the pot in which I'd planted the ginger could take it any more. Besides, the stems and leaves had turned brown a while back and the plants had been cleaned up a bit. All that could be seen at this point were little knobs of ginger root poking above the soil's surface all over the pot. 
And so, the pot was pretty much emptied of it's contents, the roots were trimmed up and cleaned off, rinsed, and set outside to dry a bit. 
I ended up with about 2 1/2 lb. (more than 1 kg) of ginger.
Some will certainly be saved and re-planted, perhaps in a pot that's a little wider and a bit more shallow. 

I have a penchant for fresh ginger.  It's a good thing because I now have plenty to use.

So far, I think my favorite posted recipes including ginger have been:

Carrot Soup
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cardamom Chicken Curry
Vegetable Korma
Rice Bowls
Thai Green Chicken Curry

When dealing with fresh ginger, I find the best way to peel it is using a spoon. The papery skin comes off easily and you don't lose any of the actual ginger (as you might with a peeler or a knife).

Sometimes we really like to make a ginger tea. It's very easy, and there's no real set-in-stone recipe, just guidelines. I usually eyeball everything.
Place slices of fresh ginger in a pan of water and bring to a boil (I like to be generous with the ginger). Boil for 10 minutes or so and then let it steep for another 10. Strain the ginger tea into glasses, add some fresh lemon juice and honey to taste. If the ginger happens to be too strong, just dilute with some hot water.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this post and I love the ginger tea recipe.
    We use this at our house for a head cold, sore throat and just 'cause we want it on a cold night