”, as ginger
is often called, is actually a misnomer
; it’s a rhizome
, an underground stem
, not a root
, and it sprouts its own roots. It grows much like bamboo
with strong, sturdy stalks bearing incredibly fragrant flowers
. The edible part, the rhizome, looks vaguely like deer antlers
, and gave rise to another name, “horn root
To buy and store ginger:
The longer ginger is left in the ground, the more flavourful it becomes, but it also becomes more fibrous. Fibrous ginger is okay for grating, but it’s difficult to chop into thin matchsticks suitable for stir-frying. Young ginger, with a pink hue and a soft skin is easier to chop, but not always easy to find.
Mature ginger has more of a peppery flavour. Look for firm, heavy “hands” of ginger. If they are shriveled or have any mould on them, they have been stored too long. It is recommended that ginger be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated, but I have found that this depends on the temperature and humidity level of the refrigerator and that it lasts longer stored in a vegetable crisper and left unwrapped. So you will need to see what works best.
One method of preserving it is to slice fresh ginger to about the thickness of a quarter (peeled or unpeeled), put it in a glass jar, and pour dry sherry over it. Cap it, put it in the fridge, and it will stay good for several years. You can use the sherry to flavor dishes. Just add a little more sherry to keep pieces of ginger well-covered.
Dried ginger is no substitute for fresh, although it certainly has its uses. It is made by drying ginger in the sun and then grinding it into a powder. But it lacks the citrus flavour of fresh gingerroot.
To grow ginger in a pot on a window sill:
- Buy ginger that has small knobs extending from the main stems.
- Put it in a paper bag and put it in a warm but sun-free spot.
- Check it once a week to see if it's beginning to sprout.
- Bury the main stem in a large pot of rich soil, growing buds upward, just beneath the surface of the soil.
- Give it a permanent home on a windowsill where it will receive bright but not hot sun.
- Water thoroughly.
- In a few weeks, green shoots should appear. Water and mist every three days and don’t let the soil dry out.
- Pinch back the first set of leaves when the shoots are about four inches tall.
- You can harvest the ginger when the plants are about five months old.
Although ginger is usually grown in tropical areas, my plant is now about eight months old, eighteen inches tall and none the worse for having spent months on a windowsill during a Canadian winter.