Ginger, botanically, Zingiber officinale, is grown for its spicy, aromatic, pungent rhizomes, more commonly referred to as the ginger root or ginger. Though the variety, Zingiber officinale, is the most popular one, cultivated for common spice ginger, several other species in many genera in the plant family Zingiberaceae are also ginger plants. For example, turmeric, cardamom, and galangal are also part of the same family.
What the ginger plant is, where does it grow, and how is it used. If you’ve been obsessing over this herbaceous perennial or considering adding it to your garden, you’ll find all your answers here.
This plant propagates from rhizomes, which are often mistaken for the roots. In reality, they are thickened underground stems that produce roots below the stems and shoots above. It’s those fleshy rhizomes that you get from the produce section in grocery stores as ginger.
Native to Southeastern Asia, the plant is cultivated and used for cooking and medicinal purposes. The plant is rich in vitamins and minerals, so eating it promotes a healthy lifestyle. And as mentioned in the headline, one excellent way to enjoy this plant is ginger tea!
|Botanical Name||Zingiber Officinale|
|Plant Type||A Herbaceous Perennial|
|Size (Fully Grown)||2 To 3 Feet (About 60 To 91 cm) Tall|
|Sun Exposure||Partial Shade To Light Sun|
|Soil Type||A Rich, Loose Soil, That Drains Well|
|Soil pH||From 5.5 To 6.5|
|Flower Color||Pale Yellow, Orange, Red|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||7, 8, 9, 10, 11, And 12|
|Native Area||Maritime Southeastern Asia|
How Many Ginger Varieties Are There?
As we already mentioned, Zingiber officinale, though most popular, isn’t the only ginger type you can grow. There are several other varieties to choose from, whether you’re growing them for the flavorsome rhizomes or the gorgeous flowers.
- Common Or True Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
It’s the popular spice or herb you find in vegetable aisles at the grocery store. The rhizome has a brown outer layer and pale yellow flesh within.
- Baby Ginger (the younger version of common ginger)
- Blue Hawaiian Ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora)
This is another edible type that has a slightly bluish hue in the rhizome flesh once it matures. You can add it to your dishes the same way as you would use the common ginger.
- Beehive Ginger (Zingiber spectabile)
It’s an ornamental plant grown for its beehive-like yellow inflorescences. These flower-like bracts turn red when fully mature.
- Kahili Ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum)
It gives sweet-smelling yellow flowers with distinct orange stamens.
- Red Ginger (Alpinia purpurata)
It’s grown for its bright red or pink conical flower bracts. On top of these bracts, you’ll find prominent white ginger flowers.
- Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior)
This variety likes to grow in full sun and gives vivid red or pink flowers with petals arranged in the form of a star.
Where Did Ginger Originally Come From?
The root of this plant has been used as a spice and medicine for thousands of years. According to common belief, the plant originated somewhere in Maritime Southeast Asia and was first domesticated by Austronesian people.
The Austronesians only included the rhizomes and leaves in culinary uses and used the foliage to weave mats. Ginger also found spiritual services in earlier civilizations, including rituals for healing and casting off spirits.
Ancient Indians and Chinese also used the plant as a remedy to many common ailments. People consumed both the rhizomes and leaves, whether they were raw or cooked.
By the 1st century, the spice had also reached Europe, when ancient Romans imported it from India. In medieval times, ginger was very expensive and considered a luxury. It was often the star ingredient of delicacy sweets.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, gingers’ popularity fell as well. But thankfully, it was revived when Marco Polo brought it back to Europe from his travels in Asia.
During the middle ages, only half a kilogram of ginger would cost the same as one sheep! During the 15th century, once its cultivation began in the Caribbean, the spice was more accessible to ordinary people.
Today, India is the biggest producer of this plant, responsible for over 32% of the whole world’s ginger production. Then there are China, Nigeria, and Nepal, who also grow the plant in massive amounts.
How To Recognize Ginger?
The common ginger, Zingiber officinale, is a herbaceous perennial that grows upright and reaches a height of 2 to 3 feet (about 60 to 91 cm). And as you know, we grow the plant for its edible underground stem and rhizome.
Some people love to use it as a beautiful ornamental in their gardens as well. With the beautiful yellow flowers, it’s a popular landscaping plant in subtropical homes. If cultivated for the rhizomes, the plant is grown as an annual.
The erect shoots that appear above the ground are reed-like and carry linear leaves alternatively arranged on the stems. The elongate leaves, thin and sharp, are 6 to 12 inches (about 15 to 30 cm) long. Though they’re tough and challenging to digest, the leaves are also edible.
The flavor of the leaves is similar but milder than the root. But before you add them to your dishes, chop them finely to make them easier to chew.
Different ginger varieties produce diverse showy blooms in summers. Those vivid, aromatic flowers are attractive and create pale yellow, red, or orange flower clusters.
The flowers appear in dense spikes that can grow approximately 1 inch (about 2,5 cm) thick and 2 to 3 inches (about 5 to 7,6 cm) long. The tips comprise many green bracts, with each bract producing a single yellow flower.
Rhizomes, ginger root, or ginger, is a strong, pungent spice popular in Asian cuisine. These underground stems are harvested, then wiped to remove the dirt in them, and lastly, dried in the sun before use.
What Kind Of Conditions Does Ginger Need To Grow?
Ginger is excellent for tropical and sub-tropical climates, and people grow it as a garden perennial or annually to harvest fresh roots to use in the kitchen. In zones nine and higher, it can be grown year-round.
What Temperature Does Ginger Grow In?
Ginger is usually planted in late spring to grow through the summers for 8 to 12 months before the rhizomes are ready for harvest.
If you live in a region with a shorter growing season, you can start the plant indoors and transplant it into your garden once the soil temperature is at least 68°F (about 20°F). The plant grows its best when the temperatures are between 75 to 85°F (about 23 to 30°C).
Soil And Sun
Partial shade with some filtered sunlight is best for growing ginger. Before planting, you could also amend the garden bed with some organic matter.
Plus, remember that ginger grows best when it gets to grow in a well-draining, organically-rich sandy soil that is free of rocks, roots, or other underground “obstacles.”
The main reason to grow it in an “obstacle-free soil” is that hard, rocky soil won’t let the rhizomes develop freely. But don’t forget that the ground should ideally be slightly on the acidic side, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5.
Water And Fertilizer
Ginger likes to grow in consistently moist soil but will rot in soggy conditions. Water as soon as the soil starts to dry out. Stop watering about two months before the harvest since this plant needs a dry period to develop entirely before coming out of the ground.
If you started with nutrient-rich soil, your plants might not need any fertilization throughout the growing season. But if you’re growing it as a perennial, a thick layer of well-aged compost at the beginning of each growing season will replenish the soil nutrients for healthy planting growth for the following year.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Ginger?
Ginger is a natural remedy for several conditions, including respiratory infections, migraine headaches, menstrual cramps, nausea, and vomiting. But, even though the plant has many health benefits, are there any side-effects for some people? Let’s find out if ginger is healthy for you in different conditions.
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
Ginger is safe for pregnant women as long as consumed in moderate amounts. The plant can relieve the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
Some experts believe that consuming this plant in large quantities may increase the risks of miscarriage, so be careful with that.
When it comes to nursing mothers, some people believe that eating ginger promotes breastmilk production, but unfortunately, there is no research to support this statement.
Ginger is safe for children and can alleviate cough and flu symptoms when taken as herbal tea. But remember that excessive consumption may cause heartburn.
People With Allergies
Allergy from ginger is rare but does exist. So, if you experience coughing, swollen throat, vomiting, congestion, oral irritation, stomach pain, or breathing difficulties, consult a doctor.
People With Diabetes
The plant can increase your insulin levels and lower your blood sugar. It can be a healthy addition to your diet if you have diabetes, but only in moderation. If you are on any diabetes medication, consult your doctor before adding ginger to your diet.
Ginger isn’t toxic to pets. You can offer it to your household pets like cats and dogs to relieve upset stomach, motion sickness, or other problems, BUT only in small amounts!
Featured image credit – © PRILL Mediendesign – stock.adobe.com