Spice up your New Year with ginger, 2023 Herb of the Year.
The International Herbs Association has chosen a remarkable ‘Herb of the Year’ since 1995. This decision is based on herbs that excel in at least two of the culinary, ornamental, or medicinal categories.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been cultivated for thousands of years and is believed to be native to the forests of Southeast Asia. It has been used as a medicinal, fragrance and spice since ancient times.
The part of the plant that is used is called ginger, but it is actually the rhizome, which is the underground stem.
The beige rhizome is a thick, knotty, irregularly shaped piece that can have several “branches” or fingers. Or even eyes.
The stem grows about one foot, from which emerges elongated green leaves.
Ginger plants also flower when the plant is at least two years old. Green cone-shaped structures appear first, then small yellow and maroon flowers sprout from the cones.
Culinary ginger flowers tend to be sterile.
Ginger is a hardy tropical plant in USDA zones 9 to 12. You can’t grow it in your garden here in western New York, but you can adapt to growing it in a container.
The best time to start your own ginger plant is in March. Fresh rhizomes can be purchased from online companies and some nurseries and garden centers.
You can also grow it from roots that you get at the grocery store. Since most ginger root is imported, the parts sold in grocery stores are usually treated with inhibitors to prevent germination.
Look for a piece with a few plump eyes (buds). Soaking the ginger roots overnight before planting will help remove inhibitors.
Ginger sold as organic may not have been treated, so look for plump buds that have turned slightly green because they are ready to germinate.
You can plant the whole root or cut it into 3 inch pieces for multiple plants. Each piece should have 2 or 3 eyes.
Allow the pieces to air dry for about a week so that the cuts form callus. Adding compost also helps. Fill the pot almost to the top. Place the rhizome on top and cover with 1-2 inches of potting soil.
Rhizomes are not buried like roots and should be planted close to the surface.
Be patient. It can take two to eight weeks for ginger to germinate.
It needs warmth, so if your room is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, placing the container on a seed-starting heat mat will help. It grows best in nearby soil temperatures.
Ginger prefers dry soil at this time of year. Water from the bottom if possible, and water only once a week.
Too much water at this time of year can cause the rhizomes to rot.
Once the ginger has sprouted, move the pot to a sunny window or provide a grow light. Light helps.
At this point, the soil should be kept moist, but not soggy.
Fertilize regularly while the plants are growing. They like rich soil. While the plant is indoors, it likes some humidity, so mist the air around it.
Ginger likes hot and humid climates. Make a plan to get your ginger outside for the summer.
Wait until nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees and daytime temperatures are above 68 degrees. Just like any other plant that stays indoors during the winter, the plant needs to be acclimatized to outdoor sunlight.
Start in a shaded area.
Ginger plants do well in partial shade, but in our area they should be able to tolerate full sun. Plan to bring the plant indoors in September, well before temperatures hit 50 degrees stand.
Ginger plants grow leaves up to 3 feet tall and add a tropical touch to your garden or patio.
The leaves on your plant will begin to die off after 8-10 months.
Stop watering when the stems are dry. Once the plants are dry, you can harvest the ginger. Let the soil dry out a little. Trim dry tops before digging.
To harvest, carefully dig up the rhizomes and clean the soil.
Set aside part of the harvest for planting in the spring. Store in a cool, dry place in a brown paper bag.
Do not refrigerate the rhizome of the ginger you want to grow. It can also be potted and stored in a container until spring.
The rest can be washed off and dried. Fresh ginger can be chopped, minced, shredded, or diced before cooking.
Whole rhizomes can be stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Cut pieces can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Have a question about gardening?
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Garden Talk returns at noon on February 2nd with Hidcote and Hever — Two English Gardens of Renown. Join us on a ‘journey’ to England to explore these two wonderful gardens of his.
Hidcote Manor Gardens are often referred to as one of Britain’s great gardens. The beautiful gardens of Hever Castle have many beautiful features.
Garden Talk classes are free, but please register for the Zoom link on the event page on the CCE website or call the office to join in person.