Growing and cooking with ginger

 

This easy-to-grow and nutrient-filled spice from the East is loaded with beneficial nutrients for your body and your brain.

The benefits of ginger

Ginger, Zingiber officinale, has numerous health benefits but nothing quite beats a cup of ginger tea, which helps with the following ailments:

  1. Coughs, colds, flu and bronchitis.
  2. Lack of energy, nervous exhaustion, diarrhoea.
  3. Many forms of nausea, especially morning sickness. It’s always good to have some ginger biscuits in the house. Ginger may also relieve nausea and vomiting after surgery, and in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
  4. The anti-inflammatory properties reduce muscle pain, and may reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness; it also helps to alleviate pain in arthritis and improve mobility. It is best to seek a doctor’s advice for more information on this.
  5. Indigestion, heartburn, colic and intestinal gas.

 

Ginger tea

4 slices of ginger

1 tsp. of honey

Lemon juice (optional)

Boiling water

  1. Pour the boiling water over the ginger and leave for a few minutes.
  2. Add the honey and lemon.
  3. Sip slowly and try chewing some of the ginger afterwards.

 

Growing ginger is easy

Ginger is easy to grow as long as you get the basics right! Basically, we eat the rhizomes at the bottom of the plant; a rhizome is a horizontal stem that grows below the soil and has roots. In theory, we are not eating the roots, but the stem.

Preparing the bed

Ginger loves rich friable, and preferably moist, soil in a sunny spot; if you live in a hot area, it does well in light shade. Prepare a bed with ample compost and mulch it to keep the soil moist. The best time to plant ginger is in early spring and harvest in winter.

Finding rhizomes

Start looking for a plant at a nursery, but they are not always readily available. Other options are to find someone who grows ginger, and ask for a few rhizomes in spring, when the rhizomes are beginning to reshoot, or buy some at the shops. Before you buy any random piece of ginger from the supermarket, choose a fresh healthy-looking one with growth buds, which look like little horns. Avoid dry and shrivelled pieces. Carefully cut these rhizomes into 5cm chunks that have growth buds on them, or plant it whole. Some people like to soak the ginger overnight before planting.

Planting

Plant the rhizome in spring with the little green horns facing up; if you have a plant from the nursery, you can plant it anytime except in winter. Plant them about 20cm apart. Cover the rhizomes with 2cm of soil, water them well and keep them moist by mulching. Once shoots appear, water the plants twice weekly and make sure they get compost every four to six weeks. If you want to plant them in a container, make sure it is at least 30cm deep.

Harvesting and storage

As the temperature starts to drop, you will notice the foliage turning yellow; the ginger becomes dormant in winter so it is advisable to stop watering and let the ground dry out. When the foliage has died back, this is the best time to harvest; you can harvest smaller pieces earlier, but you will get a better harvest if you wait. You can either lift all your ginger, but remember to save some to replant in spring, or you can leave some in the ground and begin watering in spring again. Once lifted, remove the roots and put them in a dry airy place to dry off before you store them. You can keep some in the fridge for up to two months, or chop them into 4cm pieces and put in the freezer.

How to make fresh ginger powder

Dry ginger powder can be made easily at home and it smells so fresh and inviting that you will feel like using it often.

  1. Take a fresh piece of ginger, remove all the dirt and soak in a bowl for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Remove the skin from the ginger root using a potato peeler.
  3. Slice thinly and then place the slices on a baking sheet to dry out in the sun; do not dry in the oven.
  4. Once completely dry, pulse the ginger in a blender until it is in a powdered form. Sieve to get any bigger pieces out.
  5. Place in an airtight container to maintain its freshness.

 

Ginger biscuits

These are great for dunking in tea or alleviating nausea. Makes about 35 ginger biscuits.

2 cups of flour

2 level tsp ground ginger

2 level tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ Half a level cup margarine

Half a level cup of sugar

5 level tbsp melted syrup

  1. Preheat oven to 150°
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together and then rub in the margarine.
  3. Mix in the sugar well.
  4. Melt the syrup and add to the mixture.
  5. Once it has been mixed in well, roll the dough into balls the size of a walnut and place onto a greased tray.
  6. Bake at 150°C but take the tray out after 10 minutes and hit it against a solid surface to make them crack.
  7. Then put them back in the oven for 5 more minutes.
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