It’s already mid-December and I have finally got around to harvesting what remains of the ginger root (Zingiber officinale) that I grew in a container in my Zone 5(b-ish) garden this past summer. Yes, this spicy, tropical herb can be grown in a cold climate, and with minimal effort.
I grow a big pot every year and typically don’t bother harvesting the whole batch at once. Instead, I bring the container indoors before the first frost and keep some pieces of the rhizome going all winter long. Once the last frost date has well passed, I haul the container back outside and keep it there until the end of the season, preferably in a spot protected from strong sun. Lather, rinse, repeat.
However, this year I’ve run out of adequate growing space (and then some) so when I brought the pot inside I let it dry out so that the leaves would die off. You know the scene in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life when the gluttonous Mr. Creosote says, “I couldn’t eat another bite. I’m stuffed.”? That’s me. Substitute food for plants. At a food wide and a foot deep the container is hardly wafer thin, and so the ginger had to go. No worry. I’ll start a new batch in the spring.
Since then, we dug up pieces here and there for fresh use in herbal teas. I love the taste of ginger straight out of the soil. It’s soft and subtle with a potent bite. It was especially useful when both Davin and I went through some sort of cold/virus that was accompanied by a scratchy, sore throat. The above photo is what remains.
I’ll save the biggest rhizomes for use through the winter, and the thin roots will be chopped up and dehydrated for use in herbal tea blends. These parts are edible, but they do not store well fresh.
Ginger Growing Tips
A thorough guide to growing this tropical spice is in my book, “Easy Growing: Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces” (see pages 70-71) so I won’t (and legally can’t reiterate here. But I will offer a few tips.
- Container Growing: You can grow in small pots but don’t expect much in the way of a harvest. Aim for a pot that is no smaller than 12″ deep.
- Plastic helps maintain moisture and humidity, conditions that ginger loves. However, a lack of drainage will cause the rhizomes to rot so make sure you have lots of holes poked into the bottom of the pot.
- Use rich, fertile soil.
- Keep the pot out of strong, direct sun.
- If possible, buy your starter rhizomes from a health food store where they are often from a source that grows organic as most grocery store rhizomes have been treated to prevent sprouting and therefore last longer on the shelves.
p.s. This year I also grew a few pieces of turmeric in the same pot. Next year I will try more as I like it for dyeing.