Ginger

A Superfood Worthy of its Title

Ginger is originally from southeast Asia and is therefore a tropical plant that has been renowned for thousands of years both for its culinary uses but also medicinal properties.  

Zingiber Officinale, ginger, is the botanical name for ginger and is thought to have originated in Sanskrit singabera which means “horn shaped“, which is how the rhizome appears before it shoots another leaf.

Types of Ginger

Besides the official ginger listed above, there are other varieties that have great uses as well.  One of these is what’s known as shampoo ginger, or Zingiber Zerumbet.  There are many other varieties, mostly ornamental, which have their own set of uses but we will focus mostly on the edible, medicinal and usable gingers.

Freshly dug and washed Zingiber officinale (edible ginger)
A stand of shampoo ginger (Zingiber zerumbet).

See video below about shampoo ginger:

Uses in Medicine

Ginger has the following herbal actions and characteristics:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-Inflamatory
  • Antiemetic
  • Anticarcinogenic
  • Antidiabetic
  • Appetite Stimulant
  • Cardiac Tonic
  • Cardiovascular Trophorestorative
  • Carminative
  • Diaphoretic
  • Diuretic
  • Emmenagogue
  • Peripheral Circulatory Stimulant

Ginger’s most active and abundant chemical compound is known as gingerol and is the reason behind most of its medicinal uses.  Ginger is commonly used for and probably best known for its ability to assist with stomach problems; including motion sickness, morning sickness, upset stomach, diarrhea, IBS, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.  It has also been used to reduce pain from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough, respiratory problems, migraine, back pain, stomach pain, discontinuing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, anorexia as well as to stimulate breast milk, increase sweating and to treat cholera, bleeding, baldness, malaria, inflamed testicles, venomous snake bites and toothaches.  Some people put fresh juice on the their skins to treat burns and the oil made is sometimes also applied to skin to relieve pain or irritation including insect bites.

One of the chemicals within ginger is also used as an ingredient in laxatives, anti-gas and antacid medications.

Since this is early on in the series and also because one of the more common uses of ginger includes upset stomach, we will discuss how to make a homemade ginger ale to aid in an upset stomach.

Recipe!

It’s hard to imagine a medicinal recipe could get any easier than the garlic oil earache remedy we discussed in the last post, but this one actually is!

Ingredients:

  • Ginger
  • Filtered Water
  • Local Honey (optional)

Directions:

Heat water until just beginning to steam.  Add a few slices of ginger.  Let steep for a couple minutes.  Drink (you may remove ginger if you’d like before drinking).  If you’d like to add local honey, add a half to a full teaspoon to water before adding ginger.  Stir to combine.

Yep, that’s it!  Easy!

Uses in the Edible Landscape

Ginger is a great herb to add to your garden.  It’s spicy and pungent rhizomes will help deter pests such as moles and other destructive soil dwellers.  It is also a great plant that takes up little room, requires no maintenance and thrives in shade (so long as it gets a bit of morning or dappled shade).

How to Grow!

Growing ginger is one of the easiest things to grow.  There are not really any pests to watch out for with ginger.  All you need is a shady spot that is well watered (but not waterlogged) and fertile.

Planting

Another reason I am discussing ginger at the current time is the fact that it’s another herb that is about time to plant.  Ginger should be planted in the late winter/early spring in most locations and I would suggest an early spring planting in our climate due to the warm days we sometimes have.   We wouldn’t want it to sprout too early and then die back as that would compromise the viability of the rhizomes.

In order to secure your “seeds”, just visit any supermarket and buy the freshest ginger you can find.  If it’s already brown and dry, soak it overnight before planting.

In the early spring, about a week before the last frost, get your ginger root and cut into 1-2 inch pieces making sure each piece has at least two growing tips.  In order to prevent the pieces from rotting, please let them dry for a day or two after cutting them to allow that scar to heal.   Bury the pieces about an inch deep, so that the growing tips are just about a half in or so below the soil line.

It’s a good idea to add some organic fertilizer or high-quality compost during planting and again just after bud break.  If your soil already has high fertility, don’t worry about adding fertilizer.

Make sure the soil does not dry out but that it also drains freely.

Care

No care is required during growth.  Seems like I should say more here, but really, ginger likes to be left alone.  If you need some ginger, feel free to harvest some as needed.  Otherwise, make sure they’re not getting too much sun, especially afternoon sun.

Harvest

Ginger likes hot, humid weather so as soon as the frost is approaching it is time to start thinking about your ginger harvest.  You will notice the plant starting to die back.  If possible, cut back on the watering and allow the soil to actually dry out.  This will encourage bigger rhizomes.

If it’s not possible to cut back on water due to rain, just make sure to harvest at the first frost.  I actually let mine go past the second frost this year but since they were right at the edge of the house they did fine.  In fact, mine still were mostly green when I decided to pull them and I got a great harvest!

 

Post Harvest – Curing & Storage

Ginger is ready to eat as soon as it’s harvested and washed.  To store, you may store for a little while indoors or a bit longer is the fridge and for up to a year in the freezer.  To freeze, just wash thoroughly and toss in a zip lock bag until ready to use.

Our first ginger harvest, started from only a single root purchased and cut into about a dozen pieces or so. Planted March 17, harvested December 1.

Another great way to store is to actually store in the ground.  Ginger will tolerate freezing weather so long as the greens are cut back during winter.  You can cut back all the green stalks and leave the ginger in the ground during winter and use as needed.

Once planted, you can actually just leave in the ground year-round until ready to eat.  If you cut back the stalks at the start of your frost season, they will actually begin growing again in the spring!

This is one of the easiest plants to grow and something I highly recommend for our climate.

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