I’ve been growing my own produce for close to 25 years and it was always the same usual suspects – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, corn, pumpkins, etc.; and every once in a while I’d throw in an odd ball crop like peanuts, artichokes, or okra, just because it was fun to see them grow. But when we moved to Washington State 10 years ago, not only did we acquire a nice piece of property with a view to die for, we also inherited two large garden plots with orchards. So I knew I had to start thinking outside the box and expand my growing horizons. And boy was that ever an awesome idea!
We starting growing potatoes, summer and winter squash, more greens, and then finally got around to making a bed of asparagus. And whoa, cheers to those scrumptious spears – I definitely wish I had planted those earlier. And so now I’m thinking its time to add a little more zip to our plots and this time I’m going with some GINGER ROOT.
If you’ve never cooked with Ginger Root, then your really missing out on a wonderful fragrant herb. Its a must have spice for most Asian dishes, for curries, your favorite stir fry, for enhancing the flavor of vegetables, and even adding to salad dressings. Medicinally, its an anti-inflammatory herb and known to be used as a remedy for travel sickness, nausea and indigestion. Got a stomach ache, feeling nauseous, or perhaps have a bit of gas? Just drink a glass of warm water with a few slices of ginger added to it. It will slowly help with the nausea and help dispel the gas. Its also ideal for boosting circulation and lowering high blood pressure.
So there’s the skinny on the health benefits and cooking suggestions for ginger root. And as you can see, it is one of those “must have spices” that should be kept in your kitchen at all times. And no worries about it going bad within a few days, this awesome herb will last up to six weeks in your fridge. But at $4.00 a pound at your local store (and who knows what kind of pesticides are on it), it only makes sense to grow your own. After plenty of research and talking with some on my farmer friends, it appears there are two ways to grow this herb. One way is to start them off directly in the garden, in late spring and in a well prepared bed. And the other way is to start them off indoors and either move them outside when the weather permits, or simply keep them indoors.
Seeing that its already August and not the proper time to start growing ginger in my area, my only alternative is to grow them inside, use them as needed, and then hope they survive a transplant come spring. So here’s the low down:
Always start with the best root possible – a plump, smooth skinned ginger root is best, not one that is skinny and shriveled as this indicates an old root. A fresh, healthy ginger root can be found at your local farmers market or in the organic section of your grocery store. Look for pieces with well develop growth buds, or “eyes” (they look like little horns at the end of a piece). Some say to soak the rhizomes in water overnight, others say to plant them directly in moist soil. Some also say to soak them in water until they sprout roots like a potato. So which way is best? Ya got me, but I’ve read that soaking them in water until they sprout roots takes forever. So I’m going to nix that idea, and go with the other two routes and we’ll see which way works best.
Soaking the root first (ginger root on the left side of the pictures): Soak the ginger root in warm water overnight; cut the ginger root into pieces, each having a few bumps per section; press it into a mix of potting soil and compost about 2-5 inches into the soil; cover lightly with enough soil so you can’t see the root (I’ll need to push the ginger down a little farther in the pot on the left); water well and keep moist while actively growing. Never let the it dry out. Makes sure it also gets plenty of humidity which can be done by placing your pot on a tray of small stones, keeping the tray full of water. This way it is always evaporating and adding moisture directly to the plants area.
Plant direct in the soil (ginger root on the right side of the pictures): Place your root in a pot that has plenty of drainage and is at least twice the diameter as the length of your root section; fill it ¾ full with a mix of potting soil and compost; place the small root sections on the soil surface; water it well; keep it damp at all times; and place it someplace warm (sun not necessary at this time).
As you can see by the photo, the roots on the left were pre-soaked and the roots on the right are the dry ones. I’m starting them off in recycled plastic containers and will move them to bigger pots (they say a 14″ pot easily holds three average rhizomes) as needed. According to Gardening Guides: “ginger can reach 2-4 feet tall. It’ll have narrow, glossy, green leaves that can be up to a foot long. Its roots can be harvested at any time, but you should let the plant grow for at least three to four months before harvesting. You’ll be able to see the ginger roots growing near the surface of the soil. To harvest them, just trim off small sections whenever you need them, while the rest of the plant continues to grow. The new roots that grow from the starter root will have the best flavor and texture”.
So there you have it – Ginger Root Growing 101. Should be a couple weeks before any significant growth is visible, so I’ll post an update at that time. Until then … enjoy those gardens !!