It’s finally fall here in Northwestern North Carolina. After the intense heat, humidity, and heavy rains we’ve had for the last two months, this weather is an amazing gift. I just wish I could wrap it up and share it with the West Coast for awhile to help all those brave people out there coping with this especially challenging fire season.
For those of you who can’t garden at the moment, need a little distraction, or are already planning for next year, let me share some seasonal highlights from our homestead garden and details on growing and harvesting ginger.
Garden and Greenhouse
Fall not only brings great weather to my region. But it’s is an exciting time in the garden and in the greenhouse.
My dent corn, that I use for polenta, is nearly dry on the stalks. Sweet potatoes are swelling to enormous size underground and will be ready to harvest in a week or so.
Late planted stands of sunflowers are bowing their heads with the weight of their plumping seeds.
A colorful display of drying beans are fattening on the vine even as the plants continue to flower.
Every few days I am harvesting winter squash as they mature to store for later use.
And all my cool season crops — mustard, turnips. spinach, collards, kale, Chinese cabbage, and more — are practically doubling in size each day.
I’ve also just started lettuce in the open bed area my greenhouse. I’ll start another round of greenhouse lettuce in about a month when I harvest my ginger.
For now, though, a quarter of my greenhouse is occupied by a rather stunning ginger jungle.
Since my ginger is clearly begging for attention, practically climbing the walls and out the door to get it, I want share some fascinating things I’ve learned about growing ginger.
Ginger requires about 9-10 months of warm growing time to produce fat, juicy rhizomes suitable for long-term storage and to save for “seed” next year. Baby ginger can be ready in 6-8 months depending on your conditions.
Ginger Growth Cycle
For most of its growing period, ginger is a tidy little house plant in appearance. But toward the end of summer, as daylength declines the leafy stems grow like trees, towering to heights of 5-6 feet.
When that growth spurt happens, ginger plants also get extra hungry for nutrients, water, and every bit of light they can access. Especially indoors or in a greenhouse, you’ll even notice those tall stems tilting toward the sun, like sunflowers.
Ginger Rhizome Production
That’s because in their final phases of development, as they move toward full reproductive maturity, ginger begins putting enormous amounts of energy into rhizome production.
Rhizomes are the part of ginger we typically eat. However, the leafy stems are also lightly flavored and can be chopped up in salads when young and tender.
Those rhizomes are also the reproductive portion of the plant. Similar to planting a garlic clove, a portion of a ginger rhizome can produce an entire new plant in the right growing conditions.
If you want to learn more about how those rhizomes develop in the ground, come with me on a quick trip to my greenhouse. I’ll also give you a few tips on when to harvest ginger for fresh use and long-term storage.
Note, since I have a greenhouse I grow most of ginger in there. But I also grow smaller quantities of ginger in my house and in the ground in my outdoor garden. So, don’t let a lack of greenhouse space keep you from growing ginger at home.
If you are ready to give ginger a try at home, you can get detailed growing instructions on ginger (and more than 30 other spices) in my book Grow Your Own Spices. Also, check out these other interesting resources on growing ginger.
Ginger Use Tips
Let me also leave you a couple more tips to help you get every bit of goodness out your homegrown ginger.
If you remove the skin from your senescent ginger for cooking or salad dressings, don’t throw them out! Dry those skins and powder them to use in any of those recipes you make that call for powdered ginger. Ginger snaps anyone?
If you use ginger in your smoothies, just leave the skins on. As long as you blend your smoothie well, you’ll never know the skins are in there and it will save you all that extra working cutting them off.
If you harvest your ginger for fresh use, you can also chop up those green stems for use in cooking (like green onions) or dry them for use in homemade teas.
If you harvest your ginger when the leaves and stems post-senescent (e.g. when they are mostly yellow) treat those stems as a “brown” in the compost pile similar to using straw. The fresh green stems, though, are a “green” and count more like using grass cuttings.
Thanks for reading/watching!