An excerpt by Laura Peters from Herb Gardening for Canada (Lone Pine Publishing)
I’m sure that most people think ginger is a tropical plant that couldn’t possibly be grown in Canada, but you can grow it year-round regardless of what zone you live in. This is where container culture becomes a true blessing, allowing people in cold climates to grow plants they couldn’t grow ordinarily. In fact, this is a project you can get the kids involved in because, if nothing else, growing ginger is fun and easy, and will reward you with its sweet, spicy flavour and aroma.
When grown outdoors, ginger root should be in the sunniest spot available, preferably full sun if possible. Indoors, it should be positioned in the brightest location or grown under a grow light.
The potting mixture or potting soil should be a light mixture with adequate drainage and fertility. Add compost into the mixture to improve its richness.
Select a container that is at least 30 cm. (1 ft.) deep. Cut the fresh root into pieces for several plants, or plant the root whole. Set the root just below the surface of the soil mix. Set the pot in a warm and sunny location and water sparingly until growth emerges. Water thoroughly after shoots appear. Mist occasionally or frequently, depending on your region, to increase the humidity. The pot can also be placed onto a pebble tray filled with water or placed in a room with a humidifier. Put the container outdoors in a sunny location after the risk of frost has passed but make sure to bring it back indoors long before fall frost. It will go dormant during the winter months, slowing down until the day length increases in spring. Repot it annually to accommodate its new growth.
GROWING GINGER IN CONTAINERS
Containers are easily displayed on decks, balconies, porches, steps and around the pool. The foliar display will remind you of tropical destinations, perfect for an exotic-themed garden design.
RECOMMENDED: Zingiber officinale
Zingiber officinale is a perennial, tropical herb (hardy to zone 8) that is grown primarily for its root. It produces bright-green, thick stems with long, strap-like foliage and exotic yellow flowers with hints of green. It can reach 1.2 metres (4 ft.) but may take years to get there.
HARVESTING & PROCESSING GINGER ROOT
A year after planting, once the plant is well established, the roots can be dug up. The newer more tender roots that have developed over the year are far more flavourful than the older ones. Cut the stems from the roots, and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks or more.
The roots can also be dried and ground into ginger powder, and stored in an airtight container. Ginger root freezes beautifully when placed in a freezer bag and will last for many months.
USES FOR GINGER ROOT
Ginger root can be used in many ways, including ground and fresh. A wide variety of ethnic cuisines use ginger root frequently as a trademark flavour.
Ginger can be used in baked goods including spicy cookies like gingerbread.
Japanese, Thai and Chinese cooking often requires a slice of ginger to enhance the fresh flavours of vegetables and meats. Sliced and grated ginger is a pungent addition to stir-fries, chutneys and confectionary.
Ginger can also be candied for a sweet treat.
Essential oil of ginger is used in fragrances and can be used in handmade soaps, lotions or to scent potpourri. The oil can also be added to massage oils to ease rheumatic pain and aching joints.
Ginger root has antiseptic properties, as well as properties helpful in settling an upset stomach, indigestion, menstrual pain and motion sickness.
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