By Darren (Plot 212a)

Indigenous to southern China, Ginger (zingiber officinale) is from the same family as turmeric, cardamom and galangal.  It’s use in cooking and medicine soon saw it spread through the rest of Asia and then the rest of the world in the early days of the spice trade, and its popularity hasn’t lessened over time.

Ginger is a rhizome, meaning it is propagated through dividing the root rather than grown from seeds.  A growing root will branch off and can send up new shoots, causing the plant to “walk” over time as it continues to expand the root.

Above-ground, ginger produces stalks around 1 metre tall with thin leaves and small flowers – it is often used as a decorative plant in tropical climates.  Whilst there’s a few main varieties used in cooking and medicine, there are hundreds of varieties – the Singapore Botanical Gardens have over 250 varieties growing!

Young ginger can be shredded for salads or pickled, and mature rhizomes are of course used in Asian food, curries and stir-fries – as well as for chutney, candy, and ginger beer.

Whilst tropical, it can be grown in Melbourne in a well-drained, warm position in soil with plenty of manure or compost. It needs plenty of water but be careful not to get the roots water-logged. It can be grown in pots and benefits from liquid fertilizer (seaweed, worm castings, etc) every couple of weeks.  Plant around September and harvest in around 6-8 months.  It’s a perennial, so replant some of the rhizomes.

Rhizomes can be ordered from suppliers such as Green Harvest, or you can try planting some organic ginger from the grocer – success can improve if store-bought ginger is left in a warm spot for a while until it starts to sprout new shoots.

Pickled Ginger

  • Thinly slice around 125g young ginger (pick in summer) into strips, then transfer to a bowl and cover with a teaspoon of salt.
  • Stir to combine. After 30 minutes, the salt should have extracted most of the liquid – squeeze out any excess.
  • Meanwhile, combine ¼ each of rice wine vinegar and sugar in a saucepan (adding up to ¼ cup water to if desired). Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Place ginger in a small sterilized glass jar, then pour over the vinegar mixture.

It should keep for many weeks in the fridge.
Add to salads, Japanese dishes or with fish.  Enjoy!