Carol Stein grows it
For years, I failed at attempts to sprout gingerroot I bought at the grocery store. Then I learned about East Branch Ginger, the mainland representative for Puna Organics, a Hawaiian ginger grower.
East Branch Ginger owner Susan Anderson says grocery-store gingerroot is fine for eating, but unsuitable for growing. In the workshops she teaches for small farmers and home gardeners through the Chatham County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, she says using organically grown ginger seed pieces designed for planting offers the best results.
Fall is the time to order seed ginger for spring planting. Most farmers are aware of this, and have likely already ordered the ginger they’ll grow next season.
Anderson recommends that home gardeners pool orders with neighbors, garden clubs or community gardens and have one large order shipped to a single location to save on both the ginger and the shipping. The orders will be sent from Hawaii early next spring in time for planting.
Growing gingerroot is not complicated, but it does require a schedule of regular applications of water, fertilizer and additional soil, and careful monitoring of temperature fluctuations. Before placing an order, study the detailed growing instructions at eastbranchginger.com.
Here’s a brief how-to previews:
Pre-sprouting indoors should begin the day you receive the order. Pre-sprout out of direct sunlight, and keep temperatures at 70 to 80 degrees. Use pots or flats containing cocopeat or similar soilless medium, and water regularly. When buds or shoots appear, move the pots to a sunny location.
Transplant the sprouts outdoors when soil temperatures are consistently above 55 degrees into amended garden soils or containers of soilless medium. Regular irrigation and applications of specific organic fertilizers are required. Add soil (referred to as “hilling”) and fertilizer every four to six weeks during the growing season. Harvest towards the end of summer, or before any possibility that soil (not air) temperatures might go higher than 90 degrees.
Debbie Moose cooks it
I love fresh ginger, and was thrilled to hear that the root is becoming a popular crop for North Carolina’s small farmers. Soon, I hope, I’ll be able to get really fresh, locally grown ginger – maybe even from Carol’s backyard.
I think freshness makes a difference with ginger. I have purchased supermarket ginger that turned out to be fibrous and woody, with little flavor. That’s why I visit Asian or Indian markets for the freshest ginger – it’s used so much in those cuisines that the turnover is higher, I suppose.
Avoid gingerroot that is shriveled, or has soft or dark spots. It shouldn’t look like a dried-out chunk of old wood. The peel should be light tan and smooth. You should be able to catch a light ginger perfume even before peeling or cutting the root.
Always remove the tough peel with a vegetable peeler before cooking. Use a microplane grater for the finest results, and be sure to grate over a bowl to catch the ginger juice along with the grated ginger. You can purchase special ginger graters that look like small saucers with little teeth sticking up; the saucer catches the juice.
Store ginger, unpeeled and tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. You can also freeze unpeeled ginger, tightly wrapped, for up to six months. To use it, remove from the freezer and simply slice off a piece; no need to thaw.
Try this version of ginger ale and you’ll be spoiled for the bottled stuff.
Reach freelance writers Debbie Moose and Carol Stein at email@example.com.
For a printable copy of the recipe, click the link: