You’ve likely heard of ginger root and have used it in cooking, but you might not recognize its beautiful foliage. Edible common ginger can grow up to four feet tall and has a long, reed-like shoot. Many cultivated varieties are sterile and therefore don’t flower, but this perennial plant’s foliage is what makes it a great tropical addition to your garden.
Before we go into how to grow ginger in Fort Lauderdale, we should clarify the terminology — though commonly called a root, technically, the part often harvested for cooking is a rhizome. A rhizome is a root-like stem that grows underground.
Are All Ginger Plants Edible?
Not all ginger plants are edible. Ornamental varieties are grown for their showy flowers and foliage. Common ginger, also called culinary ginger, is one of the most popular edible types.
Not only are the rhizomes of common ginger edible, but so are its leaves and shoots—so feel free to chop them up finely and use them as a seasoning! The leaves and shoots, meanwhile, have a less pungent flavor than the rhizome.
How to Grow Ginger
Ginger is in the same family as turmeric. The two tropical plants are native to Southeast Asia, have edible rhizomes, and require similar growing methods.
Ginger likes fertile soil with lots of nutrients, and the plant loves warm temperatures but not too much sun. Soak a fresh piece of a rhizome in water for one day, then plant it with the buds facing up and cover with one inch of soil. Space rhizomes about a foot apart, or plant them individually in containers.
Water well in the early stages, then keep the soil moist, but do not overwater. It takes a few weeks for shoots to come up, but don’t worry — the fabulous foliage and fragrant rhizome is worth the wait!
Within three to four months, you can harvest small pieces of the rhizome. The plant fully matures around eight months, but more mature plants produce more flavorful rhizomes. To harvest, remove some of the soil to find a rhizome, cut off a piece, and re-cover to allow the plant to continue growing.
What to Do with Harvested Ginger
Leaving the skin on ginger will help it keep longer. Store the whole ginger rhizome in a resealable bag or container in the fridge. To make it last even longer, stick the rhizome in the freezer.
The spice is commonly used in Asian and Indian cooking, though it can be added to a variety of dishes—from main courses to desserts and fancy drinks. Besides grating the rhizome to add ginger’s distinctive, zesty flavor to your cooking, you can also grind it into a powder or make ginger oil, which can be used in the kitchen and topically to relieve muscle pain.
Ginger tea is simple to make, and curling up with a mug is so calming. To make it, take two inches of ginger rhizome, cut it into small pieces, and boil the pieces in water for 10 minutes before straining. The more pieces you add and the longer you boil the mixture, the stronger the tea will be. And that’s it! You can add honey, lemon, mint, or any combination you’re in the mood for. This tea is an excellent natural remedy for stomach upset.
Benefits of Ginger
Ginger has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal plant. People use the spice to treat nausea, respiratory issues, and muscle aches. The plant also has antioxidant properties.
A lot of the benefits of ginger are based on anecdotal or historical evidence, but more and more research is being conducted to look into its medicinal properties. So, see how your body feels when you incorporate more ginger into your diet, and avoid exceeding the recommended daily intake of .15 oz per day.
We love a dual-purpose plant that offers beauty to your yard and is useful in the kitchen. That’s why ginger has our vote for the edible plant you should try growing next!