While visiting Hawaii while my son played violin, or fiddle as he would prefer, with a group of violinist performers at several locations I had the opportunity to visit a botanical garden and acquired two healthy roots (along with multitudes of tropical seeds)
that would become residents in my greenhouse, grow, bloom and be harvested. While Ginger is a tropical plant I have found I can grow it in a pot quit easily and harvest beautiful roots, propagate and have a fresh healthy addition to our morning carrot juice ritual. I have tried growing it outdoors, directly in the garden from ginger root pieces I ordered or got from the grocery store without luck. Of course, many times the grocery store ginger has been gassed to make it last longer and delay sprouting. Granted, I am now a better disciplined (I water better) gardener these days, but I feel like growing in pots is the way to go in our zone 8. I can sum what control the growing environment, protecting it from the freezing temperatures during the winter and the summers scalding hot rays.
Ginger has creeping, branched rhizomes growing near the surface, with pale yellow flesh beneath a thin, buff colored to dark brown skin that looks like knobby fingers and are often referred to as “hands”. The stems can grow up to 4 foot tall. They flower twice a year in my greenhouse. I have two varieties, one is a Blue Ginger which has a beautiful blue bloom and the traditional white flint ginger. It is said that the flowers are short-lived, but my Blue variety will bloom for a couple of months. Many times when we take things out of their natural growing environment, they tend to ‘go against’ what they are suppose to do.
If you can get your hands on a ginger rhizome, plant it in a 5 gallon pot, just below the surface, water and give a dose of liquid fertilizer. You can grow outside during the frost-free months and bring in your pots during the winter months. Keep in a south window. However, it will do much better in a heated greenhouse where the humidity is high. Feed with a liquid fertilizer every three weeks during the growing season. Generally this would be from spring to fall. Once your root really starts to take off and the rhizome grows, which is about 7 months after planting, harvest can start if your ginger plant is happy. Rhizomes are best when harvested in the fall. Lift rhizomes carefully, take the outside pieces and leave the main ‘center’ root to continue growing and producing the following fall. Fresh ‘root’ can be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks wrapped in a breathable vegetable bag.
Ginger has been used for centuries for many medicinal qualities from travel sickness to gout to stimulating circulation. When I was a little kid I remember my grandmother always buying me ginger-ale to simmer a stomach ache. You can make a healthier drink without the carbonation with fresh ginger root. Take about three pieces of fresh ginger the size of your thumb, chopped and put into a tea strainer or cheese cloth tied up tossed into 3 cups of boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes. Add honey and lemon to taste. This is also good to drink before traveling to calm motion sickness.