Goldfields Gardens: how to grow tropical ginger in cool and dry desert climate
This is for Maureen, who is having difficulty with her ginger plants.
Ginger, zingiber officinale, is an evergreen, flowering, perennial (30cm-5m) closely related to galangal, cardamom and turmeric.
Chinese philosopher Confucius was said to eat ginger with every meal. In 14th century England, a pound of ginger cost as much as a sheep.
Ginger loves the wet tropics ,but good harvests are achievable here.
My best harvests were grown in large pots (30cm-40cm diameter).
Put the pot on concrete in front of a north-facing wall.
Plant this weekend
- Sow tomatoes and capsicums indoors in pots.
Enrich the soil with compost and well-rotted manure.
To grow new plants you need healthy, organic rhizome pieces with buds or “eyes”.
Don’t use supermarket ginger, which has been refrigerated for long periods and treated with growth retardant.
Soak the pieces before planting.
Mound soil to improve drainage and bury pieces 5cm below the surface. The larger the lumps, the faster new rhizomes will grow.
Shoots appear from late September-October.
Keep moist and in six months you will harvest five times the quantity you planted.
If the soil becomes waterlogged, the rhizomes will rot. Move the pots into partial shade in hot weather. Drench each month with dilute seaweed solution.
Cut back the watering a month before harvest to optimise root growth. Start harvesting when the plant reaches 1m. The flavour will be mild.
The longer you wait, the stronger the taste. You must harvest when the leaves yellow and the stems start to fall over.
Gently use your hands to break the outer rhizomes apart. Leave the rest to grow on.
Tip of the week
- Ginger can add flavour to basic dishes such as pumpkin soup or ice-cream.
Feed ginger annually with a controlled-release fertiliser.
Side-dress with well-composted manure in spring.
Remove flowers as they finish, and trim out dead stems.
Ginger has few pest problems.
Ensure good drainage and dig up and destroy any affected roots.
Ginger can be successfully grown indoors. Choose sunny, humid spots such as steamy bathroom sills.
Take your pot outside regularly for a holiday in the sun.
Fresh ginger can be stored unpeeled in a resealable bag in the crisper for two months.
Alternatively, peel, cut into chunks, put in a clean glass jar, and cover with vodka or sherry. To dry ginger, peel and cut into 5mm slices and place on an oven rack on the lowest heat setting for 10-15 hours, turning every three hours.
Cool and store in an airtight container for up to a year.
Ginger can be grated raw into stir-fries, curries and desserts, powdered for use in gingerbread, speculaas, parkin and puddings, steeped as tea, brewed into beer, bottled as wine, crystallised or preserved for serving with desserts or frozen whole.
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