Favorite Edibles: Wild Ginger

Dreaming of a Mid-Summer Bounty of Home-grown Immature Ginger
wild ginger

Young ginger photo courtesy of Joseph Swain

By Debra Knapke

Two years ago I purchased “baby” ginger at the Worthington Farmers Market (Worthington, Ohio) from Swainway Urban Farm. The immature rhizomes were pearly white with rose accents. The characteristic papery covering and the interior fibers had not developed, and the flavor was sweet and subtle with the lightest of bites.
Along with the flavor comes a bounty of health benefits. I’ve used ginger for years as a digestive aid. Many use it to relieve nausea and queasiness due to motion sickness, pregnancy and chemotherapy. Ginger has been found to reduce inflammation which makes it an option for the relief of headaches and different forms of arthritis. And it has been found to inhibit rhinoviruses which cause the common cold. But, some find mature ginger to be too strong, and this is where immature ginger is valuable. Its gentler scent and taste are tolerated by more people.
Could I grow immature ginger? Off I went to the grocery store to purchase ginger rhizomes. I planted them, watched them grow, and then moved the pot into my greenhouse in the fall. What I achieved was growing bigger, mature rhizomes that were nothing like the baby ginger. I missed something here.
Enter the solution – Joseph Swain was offering a workshop on growing immature ginger on a Sunday afternoon. This was an opportunity that was too good to miss.
Here are some of the major take-home notes from two and a half hours of time-well-spent:
• Start with organic ginger rhizomes. You might be able to find organic ginger at the grocery store, but much of it is not grown organically.
• When you cut your “seed” ginger, make sure you are working in a clean environment and are using a sharp knife.

ginger workshop prepping ginger 3-6-16 crop

Required tools for preparing your ginger seed

• Use a well-draining, organic soilless mix.
ginger workshop group planting 3-6-16 crop

Joseph Swain, in black t-shirt, offering sage advice

• Do not let your ginger seed touch.

ginger workshop arrangement 3-6-16 resize

Placement of ginger

• Completely cover the ginger rhizomes and water them well.
• Do not let the ginger get too hot (over 80°) or too cold (under 65°)
• Monitor the moisture of the media and let the mix dry out, mostly, before you water again. Ginger rhizomes are prone to rot in overly moist soils.

ginger workshop planting 2 3-6-16 crop

Almost done; just add water and vigilance.

I am hoping that I will be able to show you a bountiful harvest sometime in July. Maybe there will be enough to share…

5 responses to “Favorite Edibles: Wild Ginger

  1. Rebecca Stultz

    This isn’t a comment, but a request. I would like to use a no-till or minimum till approach in my backyard garden. I can purchase organic fertilizer or soil amendments, including compost (manure or mushroom based.) I cover my beds with mowed leaves in the fall. In past years, I have tilled or forked them over in the spring, then added compost and/or fertilizer between that and planting.

    Most of the on-line articles about no-till are either for farmers and talk about the initial set up of beds.
    I would love to see a post that addresses the following:
    1. When and how should compost and/or fertilizer be added/incorporated in each year’s cycle for no-till
    2. If fall leaves are not tilled or forked in, how thick a layer is practical to leave on the beds and still plant rows of seeds?
    3. If straw is used as mulch around plants, in the fall should it be left on the beds under the leaves or put in the compost bin?
    4. What cover crops work well in suburban garden beds? Which can be cut with a hand grass trimmer or scythe? Which will grow in part shade? When would you plant them in each year’s cycle?

  2. Eddi Reid

    Thank you Debra – am forwarding this to my garden club friends.

  3. Debra

    Your request will be the basis of one of more posts that one of us will write.You are covering a lot of information with your questions and there isn’t one simple answer. One initial comment I would like to make is that the only time I would consider tilling in a food garden is at the point of creating the garden to incorporate compost quickly. Having said that, I would prefer to use sheet mulching to create a garden, but this takes longer and some people do not like the look of a sheet mulched space.

    Thank you for your very thought-provoking comment!

    • Michael


      While we are sharpening our pencils and firing up computers to create some posts on your excellent questions, you can find some help in the “Lasagna” gardening book series by Rodale, an approach to gardening requiring no tilling to start or maintain. This is similar to sheet composting Debra mentioned.

      Like you, I cover my raised vegetable beds with leaves 2 to 3 inches of leaves, preferably after chopping them up with the lawn mower, which adds some grass clippings to speed decomposition. The finer the particles, the faster decomposition. However, I lightly till this covering into the top 2-3 inches of soil in my vegetable beds so that by spring much of this has decomposed and beds are ready to plant. Some tilling but way less than I used to do. For flower and landscape beds, I spread 3 to 5 inches (sometimes 6 to 8) of chopped leaves in autumn as mulch and simply leave it as mulch. It usually disappears by early to mid-summer.

      As for question 3, I would leave the straw and add 2 to 3 inches of leaves. Straw decomposes fairly quickly.

  4. dianajlockwood

    Thank you for this interesting info! I may have to try it.
    Keep us posted on your efforts.

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