GINGER…..Flavor, aroma and health-giving
May 16, 2014
Photo by Trevor Hylton
Ginger is a flavorsome aromatic spice that has been the basis of Asian and Indian cuisine and traditional medicine for hundreds of years. Today, ginger’s popularity has spread across the globe, and it is one of the world’s most widely used herbal treatments. Ginger ranks amongst the most versatile of all herbs. The rhizome (underground stem) gives us culinary, medicinal and cosmetic uses. In foods and beverages, ginger is used as a flavoring agent. In manufacturing, it is used for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics. For centuries, it has been used to treat many ailments.
Ginger is commonly used for curing digestive disorders that involve flatulence, burping and colic. It is useful for a slow digestive system as well as circulatory sluggishness and can inhibit digestive ulcers. It has been used to stop migraine headaches and is well known for its use in motion sickness, post- operative nausea and nausea of pregnancy. Research with chemotherapy-induced vomiting, showed ginger tea to be ineffective while the tincture (liquid extract) was very effective.
The fresh juice can be used to treat first and second degree burns. Ginger also has been shown to be helpful in treating joint pain by stimulating blood circulation. Other uses include pain relief from arthritis or muscle soreness, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough, and bronchitis.
Growing ginger is easy in Florida’s climate, because it is a perennial, it will continue to grow and thrive in your garden for many years. To start, find an area of your garden that is shaded for most-of-the day; a few hours of morning sun is ideal. You don’t even need to special order ginger root; the ones you purchase from the grocery store will be just fine. Cut pieces two to three inches in size with well developed “eyes” or growth buds and simply place them in the soil and cover them with an inch or two of soil. Ginger likes rich moist soil, so if your soil is poor, add some amendments like compost or manure. The high humidity of Florida, along with the high summer rainfall, creates the ideal condition for rapid growth. Because of its high moisture dependency, mulching can be advantageous.
Ginger takes about 9 to 10 months to mature, although you can dig around the plant and cut off a piece of the root to use at any time. If you leave the rest of the root underground, the plant will continue to grow. Ginger will do very well growing in containers; just remember that the plant prefers partial shade and a moist soil. Ginger won’t tolerate freezing temperatures, so the plant goes dormant in early winter. Even though the leaves and stem die back, the roots will remain viable in the ground and regrow as soon as the soil temperature gets up to about 55 degrees F.
There are not many pest and disease problems associated with the production of ginger. However, there may be some fungal leaf spots, nematodes and some minor insect problems such as aphids, thrips and scale insects. In comparison to other garden plants, ginger has a low incidence of pest problems.
The United States is the third largest importer of ginger and if the demand keeps growing, it is clear that this crop could prove be a very viable alternate enterprise for us in Florida.
Trevor Hylton is an Extension Agent with Florida A&M University and University of Florida IFAS Extension in Leon and Wakulla Counties. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov