Posted by: briellethefirst | June 11, 2011

Ginger


Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Young, new shoot, before the chickens got it

Young, new shoot, before the chickens got it

is another plant people are surprised to find in my garden. It looks kind of grassy and can grow about 3 to 5 feet tall. Mine hasn’t flowered yet but when it does it’s supposed to be yellow or white spikes a few inches long. In Seattle and Phoenix a friend and I grew ours in pots about 1 inch deep. In Florida it seemed happy right in the garden in afternoon sun. Plant it just below the surface in a warm, sunny spot in spring. Don’t water too much at first or the root might rot. After the shoots appear water regularly. They like some fertilizer once in a while, too.

When they die back for the winter bring them in or mulch to keep them cozy when it gets frosty. The roots or rhizomes from the young sprouts have the most flavour, so harvest those when the plants are well established after about a year or so. If you’re growing yours in a pot re-pot yearly when they die back for the winter or before they wake up in the spring.

You can keep the ginger you want to use in the fridge for a few weeks or almost indefinitely covered with sherry in a jar. It can also be sliced and dried like other herbs and ground in a coffee grinder, a little at a time as needed. Whole spices last longer than ground spices. Coffee grinders are good for grinding coffee, too, but you’ll want a separate one for spices and one just for coffee if you want your coffee to continue tasting like coffee.

Use it as called for in oriental dishes, make dried or fresh slices into tea/chai, or make home-made gingerbread (yum!). You can marinate the young, tender shoots in vinegar and sugar to make beni-shoga. If you substitute fresh ginger for dried in recipes, use about 2 parts fresh for each part dried. Candied ginger is a nice treat if you’ve developed a taste for it and ginger is supposed to aid the digestion.

The top of the plant is fragrant, too, though not as much as the root. The fresh leaves or roots are good in moist potpourri and the dried sliced roots and leaves are good in dried potpourri. The fresh leaves and flowers are an unusual touch to flower arrangements.

The other shoot

The other shoot

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