By Brittany Arthur
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
A herbaceous perennial that originated in a tropical rainforest in Southern Asia. Ginger is most commonly used as a kitchen spice, but is occasionally useful for medicinal purposes. In a culinary setting, ginger is used to add a subtle seasoning to dishes or be made into candy and beverages. Ginger is used in various ways for medicinal purposes, including treating various disorders as well as being used as a placebo to treat nausea. The word “ginger” is thought to be taken from a long line of languages leading back to the Sanskirt word “srngaveram” which means “horn” + “body” due to the shape of the plant’s root. There are numerous species of plants that are called ginger and may have features different than this specific species. Zingiber officinale grows as a stalk and produces clusters of pink and white flower buds that turn yellow as they bloom. The stalk blooms when temperatures are warm and soil moisture and well as ambient humidity are high.
The intended use for the ginger will determine when to harvest the produce. Baby ginger, which is tender and mild, can begin being harvested 4-6 months after sprouting began. Mature ginger, which is the most commonly seen in grocery stores, is generally harvested about 10-12 months after sprouting.