Ginger is a perennial that can reach 1 m of height. The dark leaves stem from a hard, thick rhizome. The flowers are tubular, light yellow and appear in upright spikes. Its underground stem is used as a spice in cooking since antiquity.
Ginger originates from the island of Java, India and China. In Europe, ginger has been used since ancient times, introduced during the Crusades. In Portugal, there has been record of the use of ginger since reign of King João III.
The properties that ginger is most well known for are present due to a substance called gingerol, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect the body from bacteria and fungi. The therapeutic properties of ginger are more present in ginger essential oil, where you can find medicinal components such as cafeno, phellandrene, zingiberene and zingerone.
Ginger is also rich in thermogenic substances that activate the body's metabolism and potentiate the burning of body fat. Ginger root is made up of vitamin B6 as well as other minerals such as potassium, magnesium and copper. When ginger is used as a spice, only small amounts are needed in tea, juices or culinary preparations for a potent taste and aroma.
Ginger can be eaten raw, canned, used as a tea or as an oil. It is also used in food and beverages as a flavoring agent. In case of hoarseness and irritations in the throat, for pain relief, try chewing ginger flakes.
To store ginger, place it with the peel on in a sealed plastic bag. Be careful to take out all the air and place it in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator, where the ginger will remain crisp and fresh for several weeks.
When and where to sow?
In Portugal, ginger must be grown in the hot months of the year. The soil should be well drained, light, fertile and rich in organic matter. The ideal soil pH is between 5.5 and 7, but the plant tolerates a pH between 4.3 and 7.5.
How to sow?
The planting is done with pieces of rhizomes (called buds) of 3 to 5 cm in length. The buds or pieces of rhizome, with one or two buds each, are planted up to 5 cm deep, or in beds and pots, and then transplanted after one month, when the seedlings are approximately 3 cm height. The spacing between plants can be between 70 and 90 cm between planting lines and between 30 and 50 cm between plants, but many use other spacing. Ginger can also be grown in large pots. In cold winter regions, planting pots is ideal in domestic plantations, leaving the pot indoors during the cold months of the year.
How to care?
Carefully remove invading plants that are competing for nutrients and resources so as not to damage the ginger rhizomes. The rhizomes should not be exposed, so ensure the roots have soil covering them at all times. Heaping soil along the plants can also help keep the leaf stems erect.
When to harvest?
Ginger can be harvested 7 to 12 months after planting, when the stems and leaves begin to turn yellow. It is not necessary to harvest the entire plant. A part of the soil can be dug around the plant so as to expose a piece of the rhizome that can be harvested, leaving the rest of the plant intact to continue its growth. In this way the plant can live for several years, without the need of replanting.
Ginger grows best in tropical and subtropical climates, and can be grown at temperatures ranging from 17° C to 35° C. Ginger prefers high humidity. In slightly cooler climates, ginger can be grown in the hot months of the year, needing protection in the months when there are lower temperatures.
Ginger is widely used by speakers and singer, as it helps maintain a healthy voice.
When cooking beans, place piece of ginger to help avoid gas.
Ginger pairs well with garlic and is excellent in clams, fish and chicken dishes.