If you’re a suburban homesteader like me, then you are probably always looking for ways to avoid going to the grocery store and become more self-sufficient. One easy thing you can do regardless of if you like in the city, suburbs or even and apartment or condo is to start growing ginger! It’s one less thing you need to fun out and buy, plus having fresh ginger on hand is great for so many reasons! Making a delicious Asian or Indian dish for dinner? Not a problem cause you have ginger! Felling under the weather? Time to brew yourself a fresh ginger tea! See? It’s winning all around.
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What is ginger
If you are scientifically minded like me, then let me introduce ginger by it’s official name, Zingiber officinale. It is actually a flowering plant, that is grown from rhizomes. So what on earth is a rhizome? It comes from the Ancient Greek for “mass of roots” and it basically a form of root stem that grows underground which sends out roots and shoots from nodes. They can grow both horizontally and vertically. Other plants you may be familiar with that grow from rhizomes are lily of the valley, irises and asparagus. But back to ginger! It is actually a herbaceous perennial that which grows annual “stems” (the leaves we see above ground). So what does this mean? Essentially the roots can keep on growing year over year (thus the never-ending supply) but the “stems” and leaves grow and die each year. Fun fact, ginger was one of the first spices to have been exported from Asia.
Benefits of ginger
Ginger has been used for centuries for culinary and medicinal uses. There are many purported benefits of ginger, these include helping to treat nausea, motion sickness, loss of appetite, inflamation and pain. Rather than just relying on historical information there have been scientific studies conducted on some of gingers compounds, primarily shogaols and gingerols. Oh and it tastes delicious!
When to start growing ginger
If you live somewhere nice and warm then you can pretty much plant ginger anytime outdoors. For the rest of us, however, the best time to start growing ginger is indoors in the early spring. This will allow the plant to get started and then be moved outdoors when the temperature has risen to mid 20C (70F) so it can benefit from some good old fashioned sunlight and warm temperatures.
Ginger leaves turning yellow
The most common culprit is moisture stress. Have you been remembering to water it? While it is helpful to grow ginger inside, you need to make sure you don’t stow it away in the back room you never go into. Because while it doesn’t like to be too wet, it definitely needs to be watered regularly. That said, giving it a soaking too often can also lead to yellowing of the leaves. So if you see any yellow leaves, determine if you have been watering too much or too little and adjust accordingly.
When to harvest ginger
The time to harvest ginger is typically after all the annual “stems” have withered and dried up. It can take between 8-10 months for ginger to be fully grown so it is not a plant for impatient people. But if you invest the time it will provide you an endless supply of ginger so it is well worth the time it takes for it to get growing.
Can you grow ginger hydroponically
I’ve spoken many times about how much I love my Aerogarden Farm Plus, so it was natural for me to be curious about if you could grow ginger hydroponically. My gut instinct was no, but I decided to do some digging. Joy of joys it turns out that you CAN grow ginger hydroponically! Also, it turns out that it might actually be the better method of growing it. For this post, however, I am going to focus on growing ginger in soil as this is more widely available to most people. But I will definitely be trying out growing ginger hydroponically so stay tuned for a future post on the matter!
Step 1 – Buy some ginger
Sounds easy enough doesn’t it? It actually is just that simple. I started by walking my butt over to the grocery store. Heading to the produce section and then this is key I found some organic ginger. Can you grow non-organic ginger? Sure! But your best chance of success is going to come from organic as some of the non-organic ones may have been treated with a growth inhibitor. If you normally shy away from the higher price tag associated with organic (which you shouldn’t) then let’s make an exception this one time to increase your chances of success. Because in this case, success means not ever having to buy ginger again! Make sure to grab a nice sized chunk of ginger which is firm with tight skin, you want this bad boy to be nice and plump. You will also want to make sure that you choose a piece that has a visible eye buds/nodes as this is where the “stems” will grow from.
Step 2 – Get a large pot
If you live somewhere that stays relatively warm year-round, then kudos to you and you can probably skip this step. If One of the best methods is to grow ginger in a pot or container. As I am growing ginger in Canada and I live in Zone 5, growing ginger outside was never going to be an option for me. Ginger needs a very long growing season, so unless you live in Zone 8 or higher, you are going to have to go the container route. The bigger the better in terms of container side, but make sure that you will still be able to lug it inside when the temperature starts to drop. I would recommend a pot that is 12″ deep and 18″ in diameter. This should help to ensure a large supply of ginger but still allow you to move it when necessary. Remember that ginger primarily grows horizontally so the width of the pot is much more important that the depth.
Step 3 – Prepare the soil
Ginger likes a loss, loamy and richly organic soil with a mildly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 – 6.5 (you can check your soil pH with a simple kit). You will also want to make sure that the soil is clean and pest free. The best way to ensure this is to use a potting soil that has good drainage. This is always important when the part of the plant you are going to consume is coming directly out of the soil. It can also benefit from some fertilizer, you will want to use a 5-5-5 mixture. This is one that is 5 parts phosphorus, 5 parts nitrogen and 5 parts potassium. You will also want to watch out for tip rot which can occur when the soil is efficient in calcium. Adding some compost to the soil will also help to ensure that the ginger is getting all the nutrients that it requires.
Step 4 – Prepare the roots
Before you go just dumping your new ginger root into the soil, there is one quick but important step. You are going to want to cut the ginger into 1-2″ pieces, making sure that each piece has at least one eye bud. Then let them sit out for a few days with good air circulation to allow the cut ends to form a callus. Letting he callus form is important as it helps to reduce the change of the root developing an infection. This is pretty much the same process that is used when preparing potatoes for planting. In the interest of full disclosure, some sites online recommend soaking ginger roots overnight rather than letting a clause form. Myself, I went the callus root and have had great success. I was also not able to find any reason for soaking the roots. I’d love to hear if anyone knows the reason or if they have tried the soaking method.
Step 5 – Plant, water and wait
Once the soil is ready and the roots have formed a nice callus, then the last step is to nestle them into their new home. Dig a hole about 1-2″ from the top of the soil and place the root in, with the eye bud facing upwards. Cover with soil and give it a light watering. Make sure to place your pot in a warm place where it will get about 2-5 hours of direct sunlight daily. The soil should be kept moist but not wet as ginger doe NOT like to be overwatered. This is when the waiting kicks in, ginger doesn’t care that you are waiting for it to grow. It will take it’s own sweet time, but after a few weeks you should start to see some shoots emerging. If you don’t, then just wait a bit longer.
How to store ginger
If you know that you are going to be using the ginger soon, then it can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. If not then below are a few great ideas for using your bountiful amounts of ginger!
In order to freeze ginger you will first need to peel chop or grate the ginger. If you are grating the ginger you can scoop it onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or use these handy silicone mini ice cube trays. Once it they frozen you can store it in a freezer bag or better yet, use a vacuum sealer to help keep it at its freshest. Frozen ginger can last in the freezer for up to 6 months.
The easiest way to dry ginger is to use a food dehydrator set to 135F for 3-4 hours, but all is not lost if you don’t have one. You can also dry fresh ginger by placing ginger slices on a cookie cooling rack next to a window that gets a lot of sun for about 3-4 days. Once it has dried it is perfect for making some ginger tea or even some homemade ginger powder!
This is one of my mum’s favourite things, she would literally eat it right out of the jar! Myself I limit myself to gorging on it when I am knee deep in sushi. If you want to pickle your homegrown ginger then it is best to use young ginger. This is due to the fact that it has a then skin which is very easy to peel. That said you can use mature ginger as well, so don’t worry if you do’t have any young ginger on hand at the moment. I will be making up a batch of this for my mum, so stay tuned for a recipe in the near future.
Make a ginger bug
One thing I have been starting to get very curious about lately is fermenting. I heard about ginger bugs which are basically fermented ginger, water and sugar. They can be used to make homemade ginger ale or ginger beer (yum!). The fermentation makes them naturally fizzy so they add the carbonation to you drinks, which is hella cool. I recently made my own ginger bug and if you want to know how, then you can check out my video.
Crystallized (candied) ginger is great to add into desserts or certain cocktails, it can also be pricy to buy at the store. So if you enjoy it then you should definitely try to crystallize some of your home grown bounty!
What do you like to use ginger for? I’m hoping to start fermenting in the new year, and one thing that I love and want to try making is my own fermented ginger beer. I also have a master plan to use said homemade ginger beer to make some Moscow mules which are my current favourite drink!
Now that I have ginger under my belt, I’m thinking of trying to grow turmeric or mushrooms next. Have you tried growing either of them?