San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ginger Has It All: Attractive Foliage, Exotic Flowers and Delicious Roots

Those of you who enjoy the hot, spicy tang of ginger as a seasoning will find growing it in the home garden easy and practically  care-free. Recently a reader sent me an email and asked how she could grow ginger.

This article gives you all the tips you need to harvest ginger at home.

First, you’ll have to shop around for some ginger. Most supermarkets sell the Asian variety, which is plump and succulent and most desired for kitchen use. However, local markets often carry Jamaican ginger, which is smaller but very pungent.

Select roots (rhizomes, actually) that look healthy and are not wrinkled from dehydration.

I’d suggest planting six palm-sized roots for a large family. Once you have acquired your ginger, you can prepare a space for them in the garden. I recommend planting ginger in areas around the main garden; the plants become permanent stands and can get in the way of annual garden vegetable production. Ginger plants make nice ornamentals, blooming August through October in most regions of Costa Rica.

For each rhizome, prepare an area 50 centimeters

in diameter, well dug to 50 cm deep.

Add a shovel full of aged compost and mix it well with the soil. Then plant one ginger rhizome very superficially in the center of your prepared circle. Cover with soil in such a way that you can see several of the buds protruding from the soil. Sunlight will activate the rhizome to produce new roots and leaves.

Now comes the time to be patient. It will be at least nine months before you can begin harvesting from your ginger plants. Meanwhile, keep the stands of ginger weed-free and cultivated. Ginger plants like to have soil tilled up around the base of the plant, which stimulates more production of rhizomes.

If new leaves look pale green, try foliarspraying your plants, preferably with organic fertilizers such as compost tea or seaweed extract. Adding more compost around the base of the plant helps improve growth and production.

Ginger dedicates its first stage of growth to roots and vegetation, followed by production of new rhizomes. At this time, you can start treasure hunting in your ginger patch. Since new rhizomes grow close to the surface of the soil, you can lightly brush away the soil to uncover them. A sharp kitchen knife is useful for separating a new clone from the mother plant. That’s right; each root is an identical genetic copy of the mother rhizome you planted.

If you leave about half of the new growth on each mother plant, you’ll have a bumper crop for the following year, and will be able to harvest fresh ginger all year long.

Ed’s Favorite Ginger Recipes

Fresh Ginger Ale


3 cups water

1 fresh ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 lemon, juiced

1 cup honey or sweetener of choice

2 quarts club soda (or water), chilled

Ice cubes


Combine ginger, lemon juice, honey and water in a blender. Blend ingredients and then strain into a pitcher.

Add club soda. Serve with ice.

Hot Ginger Tea

Steep several slices of ginger in boiling water for 10-20 minutes. Add lemon and honey and serve. This tea is great for treating colds and flu, as well as digestive


Spicy Ginger Sauce


3 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 tbsp. rice vinegar

1 1/2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp. Oriental sesame oil

2 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. chili oil or 1/4 tsp. dried, crushed

red pepper

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


Whisk or blend all ingredients. Refrigerate overnight so the flavors marinate. Warm the sauce and add to stir fries, noodles or rice at the table.

Gingerbread Cookies


1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

2 1/2 tsp. ginger, ground

1/8 tsp. salt

3/4 cup dark molasses

1 egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda


With a mixer, cream together butter, sugar, spices and salt. Add egg and mix to combine. Add molasses and mix again until smooth and uniform. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add to the creamed mixture and stir until well blended. Chill for one hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a lightly floured board, roll out dough (a quarter of it at a time) to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with a cookie cutter and transfer to a greased (or nonstick) cookie sheet. Bake eight to 10 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.

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