(LyAnna – MassReport) Zingiber Officinale, or what we call ginger, is one of the easiest plants to propagate and harvest. Being delicious, it is also one of the easiest to eat, and takes the place of many treatments found in the medicine cabinet. Gingersol and shogaols are the active chemical constituents in ginger that are attributed to its healing properties and have been known to have anti-inflammatory properties (NSAIDs), work as immunity boosters, and combat cancerous cells. Ginger has long been known as a panacea for stomach conditions like motion sickness, nausea, morning sickness, and the pesky stomach flu due to its ability to relax the intestinal tract. Even more, it's spicy which helps get the metabolism going as well as cleansing the colon.
The health benefits of ginger are irrefutable and numerous but lets cut to the revolutionary act of growing your own food and medicine! Ginger is incredibly easy to grow, green thumb or not, but we will break it down step by step. For ease of communication we will call it ginger or ginger root even though ginger is actually the whole plant which has foliage (leaves) and a rhizome, which itself has roots. The part that you buy at the store, peel and eat is actually the 'rhizome'.
This is the ginger rhizome we can plant:
First, let's choose a piece of ginger to plant. You can order one from a seed catalog or find one in a nursery, but I find that it's easiest just to buy a piece at the store. Try to make it a health-food store or a natural store where the ginger wont be sprayed to oblivion with chemicals that actually inhibit the growth of roots – which is what we are looking to do in this project. If the ginger has been sprayed you will need to soak it for a night or two until the chemicals dissipate. Now, out of the healthy natural gingers try to pick a piece that is thick, with a nice peel, and has lots of nubs. Nubs?! What I mean by nubs is that it isn't a smooth shoot but has lots of dips and curves in it that are almost protruding like little fingers. These nubs are the parts of the rhizome that will regrow into a new plant.
Now, let's talk soil. The soil needs to be 'loamy', which just describes the particles that make up the soil. Loam is sand, silt, and clay and it's these properties that define how well the soil holds moisture. In the case of ginger we need a soil that will retain some moisture so that it never dries out but we want to make sure that we don't have soppy dense soil that will drown and suffocate our root. The soil also needs to be nutrient rich which can be maintained by adding organic matter, compost, or an organic fertilizer.
Now, let's talk containers. Basically, pick a container where you can plant your ginger and allow it some space to grow, but it doesn't need much. I try to recycle a container that I have already used for something else. The ginger root stays towards the top of the soil not extending too far down so a shallow container works well. I cut an old plastic juice jug, about a gallon size, that so it was about 4-5 inches deep, 7 inches wide and slit holes in the bottom to make sure there was proper drainage.
Now, let's plant! Fill your vessel with soil. I like to pre-water mine so that the soil if uniformly damp but has had time to drain through. You can plant your ginger whole or you can cut it into smaller pieces. I like to cut the ginger into chunks but its important to make sure that theses chunks all have growth nubs on them. After I cut the ginger I let it heal over night so that there isn't an open juicy wound. Now, place your pieces of ginger into the soil, nubs up, and cover with an inch or so of loose soil.
Now, we need to sustain the life of this plant but caring for your ginger is as easy as the planting requirements. You shouldn't ever let it dry out but you don't need to over water it either. I check the soil with my thumb: if I feel moisture and it sticks to my skin a little bit, then I leave it alone. If the soil feels almost sandy and drops off of my skin, I give the rhizome a nice spritzer. I never drop more than a shot of water on my ginger, unlike other plants where you soak the soil through and through. Ginger needs some sunlight, different people have different recommendations, but I keep mine in a room where it never gets direct sunlight, because I don't have a room with direct sunlight, and it does fine. Being a tropical plant it does like warm humid conditions. These conditions don't need to be replicated as it can be hard, but try to keep that in mind when choosing a home for your plant. Don't leave it outside when it's going to frost, don't leave it in direct sunlight to dry out, don't put it in the room that has the worse draft… Just be mindful and the job is easy. I've seen ginger survive year round in Vermont under less than optimal conditions which makes me think it can be grown close to anywhere!
Wala! The dirty work is done! Don't forget to congratulate yourself on taking a step towards health and independence! Now, sit back. The new rhizomes won't be fully matured for at least 8-10 months but during that period you can cut off chunks of the root for use without harming the plant as it will regenerate.
A beautiful woman in the backwoods of Vermont gave me these directions however many sites online have documented their efforts. Here are some sources to go by: