Botanical Name: Zingiber officinale
Common Name(s): Canton Ginger, Common Ginger, Cooking Ginger, Ginger, Stem Ginger, and True Ginger
Flavor Profile: Spicy, Citrusy and Woody taste
USDA Grow Zone: Hardy 8-12
Zingiber officinale is a perennial herb with swollen underground stems/pseudostems or rhizomes that spread outward and can grow about 2-3 ft in height and width but can grow even more in ideal growing conditions. The leaves are long and narrow. The flower is a cone that grows on a separate and leafless stem. It takes about two years for ginger clump to produce flowers. If you’re thinking about saving seeds as gardeners often do, I hate to be the bearer of not so great news. Ginger flowers are usually sterile and do not produce seeds. For container growing folks, they rarely flower for you. I am both intrigued and disappointed upon learning all that.
Ginger is one of the oldest known herbs and is best known for its pungent aroma and spicy flavor. It has been used in Southeast Asia for over 5,000 years and was one of the first spices to reach Europe more than 2,000 year ago. Medicinally, ginger is used for a wide range of conditions. Not surprising at all that more than half of most traditional medicine recipes call for ginger. It is taken internally to treat nausea, indigestion, colic, colds, coughs, flu and peripheral circulatory problems. It is used externally to treat rheumatism, menstrual cramps and sprains. It does interact with certain medications like warfarin. It’s really important that you talk to your doctor if you’re using ginger medicinally!
In the kitchen, ginger is also used for a wide range of purposes. Matured and dry roots are stronger in aroma/flavor and are used as food flavoring in cakes, curries, chutneys, stir-fry dishes, soup, candies and in beverages. Young ginger are eaten raw in salads, pickled, or cooked in syrup and made into jam. The young leaves and shoots can be made into sauces and dip. The leaves can also be used to wrap food. The young inflorescences/flowers can be eaten raw.
Before we get into the steps of growing ginger, let’s talk about what ginger likes and dislikes. Ginger thrives in hot, humid conditions and in soil rich with organic materials.
- Temperature range: It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 19 – 29°c or 65°F to 85°F, but can tolerate 13 – 35°c or 55 °F to 95°F. Low temperatures will induce dormancy
- Soil conditions: Prefers a well-drained, rich in organic materials, neutral to alkaline soil (pH in the range 6 – 7, tolerating 4.3 – 7.5). A mixture of good compost (cow manure or any organic mixture) and sand/sandy garden soil for for a well drained bed in ground. Mulch thickly to retain warmth, moisture, suppress weed and feed the ginger as the mulch breaks down. For growing ginger in pots using standard potting mix, add some slow release fertilizer at the time of planting and follow up by kelp/fish fertilizer every few weeks. Not when sprouting ginger but at the time of planting.
- Sun/Light Requirements: Partial shade. Direct sun can burn the tips of leaves.
- Water Needs: Ginger needs a lot of water during the active growing stage. Don’t let it dry out but make sure soil isn’t soggy from overwatering as that will not only promote rotting but leach away nutrients if grown in pots. They do not like being waterlogged. Gingers in containers should not be watered at all until it breaks dormancy and is growing. When the weather starts cooling down, cut back on the watering to help ginger rhizome develop.
- Growing time: Late winter/early spring. Ginger requires eight to ten month growing season from planting out a root to being harvested when the stalks begin to wither.
- Spacing: 12-15 in. (30-38 cm) apart in a row and about the same spacing in between rows. A 14” wide and 8” deep pot can sufficiently hold up to 3 rhizomes.
Without further ado, here’s a little infographic on how you can grow your own ginger at home!