Grow your own ginger

Zahra Ali explains how to get an unlimited supply of ginger, avoiding the chemical-laden product one gets at the sabzi-mandi

Grow your own ginger
Be it the stunning flower stalks, the green shiny leaves or the aromatic roots, ginger can be grown for more than one reason. For us, however, one main reason to grow ginger is to find pure organically grown ginger right from our own garden.

Ginger is, without a doubt, one of the most unnaturally stored rhizomes that we get from the sabzi-mandi. Most of the ginger roots that are available in the market go through various procedures that involve lots of chemicals and poorly managed standards at storage or at places like the sabzi mandi itself. Unfortunately, this highly consumed root is rarely available at organic stores or farmers’ markets. It is because of this reason that it becomes crucial for us to grow ginger to ensure we get the true health benefits of this wonderful spicy root.

Ginger is known to have very useful anti-inflammatory properties? and other medicinal uses

Selecting and sprouting ginger

Source a fresh desi ginger, ideally one that was not soaked in chemicals. If you buy ginger after monsoon, you will find that it is already sprouting – which makes things simpler. If the ginger is not sprouting you can place it in a clean jar and put the lid on. Keep it in a warm spot beside a sunny window. It will sprout in a couple of days. Alternately, you can place the bulb in the soil directly and let it sprout underground. This may take a couple of weeks.

Planting a ginger patch

Reserve a patch or make borders of ginger plants in your gardens or vegetable patch. Ginger takes more than 6 months to grow but requires no maintenance during that time. Select a spot that gets less sun and has enough space for roots to spread. Ginger stalks also produce stunning orange flowers which creates an eye-catching display even in an ornamental garden.

To begin your ginger patch, add organic compost or manure to your soil and let it blend in for a week or more. Keep watering. Place ginger sprouts at 12 inches from each other in a hole that covers them. Water deeply. Soon you will begin to see green shoots which will grow somewhere from 3 to 4 feet tall.

Your very own D.I.Y Ginger Pot

A large planter of any kind with good drainage holes can grow plenty of ginger for you. Use grow bags, sacks, terracotta or plastic pots, tubs, tires or large empty bottles to grow this delicious treat.

Start by mixing peat moss, soil and compost or manure in equal parts.  Fill up the pot with the soil mix and dig a hole deep enough to cover your bulb.  In a 12-inch pot place two small cuttings or a large sprouted bulb.  Water deeply and let it sit in a sheltered spot where it gets indirect sun light. This is where it will quietly multiply for next few months.

Source a fresh desi ginger, ideally one that was not soaked in chemicals. If you buy ginger after monsoon, you will find that it is already sprouting - which makes things simpler

Harvesting and storing homegrown ginger

Young ginger can be harvested in 4 to 6 months but for mature ginger you will have to wait for at least 8 months. When you are ready to pick your ginger roots from a container, pull the plants out. Usually, the terracotta pots are broken to reveal the tightly packed roots. A fork can be used to pull out the rhizomes from the ground.

Separate the roots from the stalk and wash them.  If you plan to store them outside you can scrape the new shoots that are coming out to discourage new plants.

For immediate use, you can store your ginger in the refrigerator as a whole or grated. Minced or grated ginger can be frozen quite well. Refrigerated ginger will stay good for up to a month and frozen ginger can be stored for several months.

Trust me: it is worth investing your time in growing ginger that you can store to be used throughout the year.

Sick? Let’s make you feel gingery again!

Ginger has been used as medicine since time immemorial. It is known for its soothing effects during gastrointestinal distress. It eliminates intestinal gas and relaxes the intestinal tract. Besides this, ginger is also therapeutic in many other ways.

Ginger is very useful in reducing nausea and vomiting during pregnancy – making it a perfectly safe and effective medicine. It also contains anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols – believed to reduce pain in patients suffering from osteoarthritis.

Ginger tea encourages sweat during cold and flu, which helps in recovery.

Spice up your cooking

This aromatic spicy herb is a key ingredient of any South Asian or East Asian meal. Grown underground as a rhizome, ginger offers many health benefits as well. This yellow, white or red root has brownish skin that can either be thick or thin and is usually removed before cooking. Here are some super-useful and flavourful recipes that are addictive for your taste-buds, healing for your body and refreshing for your soul.

Ginger tea

Boil 2 cups of water with a 1-inch cube of fresh ginger and a stick of cinnamon. Simmer for 3 minutes with the lid on. Serve with honey and a dash of lemon for a treat on a cold afternoon or to reduce symptoms of flu and cold.

Soothing ginger soup

Add 1 tsp of oil to a hot pan, stir in some minced ginger, chopped celery, leeks and carrots. Cook for a minute and then add fresh chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and season your soup. I like to add chopped kale to this clear soup – and some lemon. It makes for a pure and healthy way to calm down your senses and to warm up your soul.

Zahra Ali is a sustainability educator, writer and environmentalist. She blogs at Send in questions about gardening to