Ginger, a staple ingredient in many cuisines globally, is a versatile and medicinal plant you can easily grow in your own garden. With distinct spice, sweet, and citrusy flavors, ginger root is used in a plethora of dishes and drinks, from stir-frys to teas. Besides its culinary appeal, ginger is a potent natural medicine known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is chiefly the rhizome – the root – of the ginger that is utilized for culinary and medical purpuses.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) belongs to the family Zingiberaceae, which means that it is fairly closely related to other famous culinary and medical plants such as turmeric (Curcuma longa), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), and the various galangal species.

Note: Species in the genus Asarum are sometimes sold as wild ginger, because they taste similar. They are not a wild version of the species Zingiber officinale.

About Ginger

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering, herbaceous perennial that develops annual pseudostems (fals stems that are actually rolled leaf bases). It grows to be around a metre tall and produces narrow leaves. The inflorescences arise directly from the rhizome on separate shoots, and will bear flowers with pale yellow petals.

Ginger Has Been Grown by Humans For a Very Long Time

Ginger originated in Martime Southeast Asia. It was probably first domesticated by the Austronesian peoples, who then began taking it to other parts of the Indo-Pacific during the Austronesian expansion several thousand years ago. This early spread of ginger went as far as Hawaii.

In China, Japan and India, the use of ginger in food and as a medicinal plant goes back very far. Today, India is the largest producer of ginger. In 2020, India grew 43% of the world´s total production of ginger.

Ginger is believed to be one of the first Asian spices to be exported to Europe, and was for instance used by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Selecting the Right Ginger Root for Planting

To start your journey in ginger cultivation, begin with choosing the right ginger root or rhizome. The ideal ginger root is plump and clean with multiple eye buds. It should not show signs of rot.

Garden stores usually have planting ginger for sale, but grocery store ginger can work too, unless it has been treated to prevent budding.

Ideal Conditions for Ginger Growth

Ginger thrives in warm climates, ideally under partial shade to protect it from extreme sunshine. It prefers rich, well-draining soil that can retain a good amount of moisture. The best time to plant ginger is in the early spring, providing it with the warm, long growing season it needs to mature.

If you live in a part of the world with a short summer season, you might need to cultivate your ginger in big urns. Start cultivation indoors, and then gradually adapt the plants to life outdoors as the weather permits. Before the winter comes, bring the urns back into a protected place.

Preparing the Ginger for Planting

Prepare the ginger root by soaking it overnight in warm (not hot) water to stimulate germination. Afterwards, cut the ginger into pieces, ensuring that each segment has at least one eye bud. Let these pieces dry out for a day or two before planting.

Planting and Care for Ginger

Plant the ginger pieces around 2-4 inches deep into the soil, with the eye bud pointing upwards. Ensure that each plant is about 8-12 inches apart for optimal growth. Water the ginger immediately after planting and continue to do so regularly, especially in dry periods. However, keep in mind that overwatering can cause root rot. This risk is especially high if the soil is not well-draining.

Harvesting Your Ginger

Ginger plants take around 8-10 months to fully mature. Once the foliage begins to die back, you can start harvesting. Use a garden fork to carefully raise the ginger from the ground. Extract what you need and replant the rest, allowing you to have a continual supply. 

Storing and Using Your Ginger 

Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks, but if you’d like to extend its shelf life, you can freeze, dry, or pickle it. Whether added to hot teas, savory dishes, or used as a natural remedy, freshly grown ginger invariably eclipses its store-bought counterpart. 

Growing your own ginger is a rewarding endeavor that grants you access to a fresh, potent supply of this exotic spice. Aside from its culinary importance, ginger also offers a myriad of health benefits, making it a worthy addition to your backyard garden.