Plants

Ginger

Zingiber officinalis

Verena Schmidt Verena Schmidt

Ginger is not only popular as a spice in the kitchen, it also has a healing effect. Here’s the correct way to plant, care for and harvest this healing plant.

Growth type
  • Perennial plant
  • rhizome

Origin

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a plant species from the ginger (Zingiberaceae) family. There is uncertainty about the natural home of the ginger plant. It may have originated from the Pacific islands. Today, ginger is cultivated in all of tropical and sub-tropical Asia, in parts of Africa and south America as well as Jamaica. Jamaican ginger, with its particularly intensive aroma, is the most widely traded in the west, Nigerian ginger on the other hand is considered very sharp but lacking aroma.

The word ‘ginger’ is thought to originate from Sanskrit and means ‘antler shaped’. The knobbly, subterranean growing rootstock or rhizomes of the plant really are reminiscent of antlers. These are used raw, as powder or cooked. Ginger is a proven healing plant. The bulb was already being used in ancient China. Confucius (551– 479 BC) is said to have always taken when travelling it to combat nausea. Ginger is also used in Ayurveda for the widest variety of health complaints and is an important ingredient in east Asian dishes. The fruity sharpness of ginger can be traced back to the spicy substances gingerol and shoagol. The bulb also contains essential oil, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, sodium and phosphorous.

Growth

Annual, bushy 24 to 39 inch tall shoots form from the bulb-like, thickened, fleshy ginger rhizomes, from which the flower spikes grow.

Leaves

Ginger has sessile foliage with narrow, approx 7.87 inch long lamina. They are reminiscent of bamboo leaves.

Flowers

Cone like inflorescences shoot out from the rhizomes as well as the imitation stem. These have greenish-yellow bracts with lots of flowers made up of sepals and corollas. The stamens are violet and have a pleasant, sweet fragrance.

The flowers of the Ginger plant are highly decorative

The flowers of the Ginger plant are highly decorative

Fruit

The fruit of the Ginger plant are fleshy, berry like capsules.

Location and Substrate

Due to its tropical origins, Ginger grows best in a warm, off-sunny spot on the window ledge in a nutrient and humus rich substrate, which should always be slightly moist.

Planting and Care

A pot on the window ledge is most suitable for. Lay 1.18 to 2 inch long pieces of a Ginger rhizome flat in a plant pot filled with potting soil and lightly cover with soil. The substrate is then watered and the pot covered with a film hood in order to retain the humidity. You should fill a layer of expanding clay under the pot as drainage so that excess water can flow off easily. The Ginger root needs a semi-shady place at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit in order to grow shoots. The shoot growing Ginger root does not tolerate blazing sunlight. After a few weeks the rhizome will start to take root. When a shoot has finally formed, you should move the young Ginger plant to a lighter spot. You can now remove the film hood.

Water the Ginger plant regularly with soft water. The root ball should always be kept moist. A word of caution: The rhizomes will start to rot quickly in waterlogged soil. Spray the leaves occasionally with soft water.

Overwintering

While the Ginger plant likes conditions warm and bright in the summer, during the winter it needs a cool spot at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it does not tolerate frost. You should also stop watering it now, as the end of its vegetation cycle is approaching, similarly to tulips and other bulb plants. Only the rhizome remains.

Harvesting and Use

Ginger is harvested in the fall. You can tell when the Ginger is ripe as the leaves turn yellow. It can now be processed in its fresh form. If you have harvested more than you can use straight away. If you dry Ginger the rhizome becomes spicier. You can eat peeled Ginger raw - by adding it to tea, juices or salads. You can also use it to add spice to meals, it is particularly good in a lot of Asian dishes. Ginger is also known, among other things, as an accompaniment for sushi; it lends the fish a spicy aroma. Dried Ginger is primarily used as a powder.

Ginger as a healing plant

The Association for the Promotion of Natural Medicine according to Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, known as ‘Paracelsus’, has chosen ginger as the medicinal plant of the year 2018. Giving its justification, the association stated it wanted “in particular to make the medicinal effects of this common spice in Asian cuisine better known”. In Asia, Ginger has been one of the most important healing plants for years, among other places in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It has also gained increasing importance as a healing agent in Europe. The gingerols in particular are not only responsible for the spicy taste of Ginger, but also for a large part of the healing effects of the rhizome.

Gingerols are similar to Aspirin in their chemical structure and efficacy. This means they inhibit the aggregation of thrombocytes (build up of blood platelets), thereby significantly reducing the risk of thrombosis and arteriosclerosis. Gingerols also alleviate pain, help with dizziness and nausea as well as alleviating travel sickness. Ginger was present in the on-board medicine cabinets of sailing ships centuries ago, as seamen would chew the ginger bulb to alleviate the symptoms of sea sickness.

Ginger has an extremely positive overall effect on the digestive tract. In the intestines, Ginger counteracts the hormone serotonin. This property makes Ginger a helpful agent against sickness, bloating and intestinal spasms. It stimulates the appetite and promotes the production of digestive juices. Ginger also activates gall juice production thereby easing fat digestion. The spicy gingerols also stimulate saliva production and perspiration, as they stimulate the heat receptors in the stomach. In this way, they ensure a pronounced, intensive burning and heating feeling.

Ginger tea

Ginger tea - refined here with mint - is a proven home remedy against throat pain

Due to its extreme spiciness, it can only be consumed in small portions. It has a milder taste when dried and then candied. Homemade Ginger tea with its pain alleviating and inflammation inhibiting effect on throat pains and flus is also very popular. To make tea, cut the Ginger into thin discs, pour over boiling water and leave to brew for five to ten minutes. For a stronger and spicier Ginger tea, leave the Ginger to brew for twenty minutes or longer. You add lemon juice and honey to the tea to suit your taste. Be careful to ensure that purchased Ginger bulbs feel firm. The skin must be smooth and tight. It’s best to store fresh, unpeeled Ginger wrapped in kitchen towel in a sealed airtight container in the vegetable draw. Frozen Ginger can be stored for up to three months.

Propagation

You can propagate Ginger by breaking of a piece of rhizome off from the mother plant and planting it in a pot as described above.

Diseases and Pests

Ginger is a truly robust plant, as the spicy materials it contains also protect it against many harmful organisms. However, if it is cultivated in too much water this can often lead to root rot. At the same time, this also leads to fungus gnats moving into the plant pot substrate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does Ginger come from?

The origin of Ginger is no longer known with certainty today. Its natural home is suspected to be the Pacific islands. Today, Ginger is primarily grown in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of Asia, Africa or south America.

Where does Ginger grow?

Ginger is best grown in a pot on a window ledge. The substrate should be humus and nutrient rich and always kept slightly moist.

When can Ginger be harvested?

As soon as the Ginger leaves change color in the fall it is ripe and the rhizome can be harvested.

How can Ginger be stored?

The best way to store Ginger is to keep it cool and dry in the fridge. Cut Ginger is first wrapped in moist kitchen towel and then placed in a food storage bag in the fridge. Alternatively, Ginger can also be peeled, cut up into small pieces and frozen.

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