Planting Ginger

Ginger is a biennial or perennial herb to the tropics and cultivated in tropicales in both hemispheres. The plant flowers and produces fruit. The rhizomes underground stem has a characteristic, pungent taste, to some extent in medicine, but its principal commercial use is in flavoring foods, confections and carbonated beverages.

Ginger is believed to be native to the warmer parts of Asia, where it has been cultivated from early times. The plant rapidly spread to the West Indies, South America, Australia, and Africa. Ginger has been recognized as a spice for thousands of years. Ancient Greeks and Romans welcomed the flavoring agent from southern Arabia, by way of the Red Sea. It has also been savored through history in India. Long ago, this herb was considered medicinally valuable in treatment of digestive disorders, although most growers value it to-day for its use as a condiment.

Ginger is an exhaustive crop and requires fertile soil with good drainage. The rhizomes are likely to rot in poorly drained soil, and the plant will not thrive in gravel or sand. For maximum growth, much rain and high temperatures during the growing season are required, and it is therefore best grown in tropical and subtropical regions.

The rhizomes are harvested early in winter, and the crop should not be replanted until early in spring. Ginger is readily propagated from small divisions of the rhizomes, each division containing at least one bud or “eye.” In Florida, these may be planted in February or early March about three inches deep and about 16 inches apart in rows two feet apart. The plants come up slowly and in the early stage of growth are much benefited by some protection from the sun. Cultivation and hoeing sufficient to control weeds are necessary. As the season advances and the rhizomes enlarge, the plant develops numerous leaf-stalks, followed in fall by flower stalks.

In Florida the roots may be harvested early in December. This is readily accomplished with a garden fork. The soil is shaken off, the top cut off close to the rhizomes and the fibrous roots removed. To facilitate removal of the soil, it is advisable to break the rhizomes into several branches, or “hands.”

Ginger grows well in a greenhouse with a 75° F. (23.89° C.) temperature. It needs a large pot and a lot of water and responds well to applications of liquid compost or manure.

The rhizomes, collected when young and green are washed and scraped before being preserved in syrup or as a tasty preserve which is exported mainly from the West Indies and China. Ginger candy, made from sliced sections of ginger preserved in sugar, is a favorite among children and adults alike.