Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Grow Your Own Ginger (Tutorial) - Art Every Day Month - Day 12

"Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together,” wrote John Ruskin. In that case, gardening - indoor and outdoor - is something which involves the hand, head, and heart.

As I looked at the gardening ideas on one of boards on Pinterest, I came across a pin for growing your own ginger which led to Learn 2 Grow.  Ginger is something that we use often, so when I saw that it can easily be grown, I wanted to try it.

According to Learn 2 Grow, ginger has attractive foliage - so it makes for a pretty plant indoors or out.

The first step is a ginger root from the grocery store's produce section. Ginger root is sold in a clump that’s called a “hand.” Choose a hand that’s fresh and firm with as many “fingers” as possible.

Ginger roots purchased from the grocery store.

Then, get potting soil and a pot from a store or garden center. The pot should be at least twice the diameter as the length of the root section. I looked at what we had on hand, and all I could find was a terra cotta planter. It isn't as wide as it should be, so at some point the ginger root will need to  be transplanted.

A pot filled with potting soil

To get as many plants as you can, cut or break the fingers off the main root. Each section with a growing tip will become a plant. Be sure to allow any cut surfaces to dry before planting them in moist soil.

Ginger root planted and watered.

Next, fill the pot three-fourths full with standard potting soil, and place the small root sections on the soil surface. In fact, it is best to simply lay the ginger root on the top of the potting soil to “plant” it. Because ginger root tubers grow right near the soil surface, don’t bury them when transplanting them to a garden.

Water the plant and soil well. The plant will survive dry spells, but to get the most consistent growth, keep it damp at all times.

Place the ginger pot in a spot where it’ll stay warm. There’s no need to find a sunny spot on your windowsill. At this stage, ginger actually grows better without direct sunshine.

Soon, the root will show some sprouts.

Studies say ginger’s peak flavor arrives at 265 days - that will be on Monday, August 4, 2014. By starting the ginger inside now, this one root can produce four times that amount by fall.

To get this quantity of ginger, it has to be started as an indoor plant in Minnesota and transplanting it in the garden in late spring (once the weather is warmer). When moving ginger to the garden, it's best to find a spot with rich, loose soil, that is easily to access since it should be watered regularly.

It is one of the few culinary herbs that can be grown in the shade. However, it seems to do best with only a few hours of direct sunlight each day.

According to Learn 2 Grow, there are not many pests or diseases that affect ginger. As an added bonus, sometimes a ginger plant may produce yellowish flowers at the base of each stem.

With proper care, ginger can reach 2-4 feet tall. It will have narrow, glossy, green leaves that can be up to a foot long.

Its roots can be harvested at any time, but the plant should be allowed to grow for at least three to four months before harvesting. The ginger roots that can be harvested will grow near the surface of the soil.

To harvest them, just trim off small sections whenever you need them, while the rest of the plant continues to grow. The new roots that grow from the starter root will have the best flavor and texture.

For larger harvests, pull the roots from the ground and allow them to dry in the open air before removing the stalks and harvesting.

The old starter root should be tossed out at the end of the season.

As a side note, since we have the space to grow ginger outside, we don't need to keep it in a pot around for the growing season. However, if we had limited or no garden space, it is possible to grow ginger in a container for the entire season. In this case, the pot should be at least four times the size of the original starter root. The ginger will become a pretty foliage plant while the root grows.

One of our favorite ways to use ginger is in triple ginger cookies.

Triple Ginger Cookies
Triple ginger cookies.

On Learn 2 Grow, there is a recipe for crystallized or candied ginger. This is another ingredient in the triple ginger cookies which I typically purchase. I've never tried to make it, so I'll have to try this recipe as well:

Candied Ginger

Peel and slice ginger root into small sections. Cover in water, with an inch to spare, then cook on a low boil for one hour.

Test the roots for softness by piercing one of the sections with a fork or knife. Once they’re soft, begin adding sugar, and keep the pot on a low boil. (Note: The amount of sugar you use should equal the amount of water in the pot.)

Allow the roots to boil in the syrup for at least an hour, and then strain the root pieces and roll them in granulated sugar.

Place the sugared roots on wax paper and let them dry overnight. Once they’re completely dry, they can be stored in a sealed jar for months, or frozen in plastic bags for up to a year.

The ginger syrup leftovers also can be used is, and is supposed to be delicious.

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