Gardener's Notebook - Some homework on the use of ginger

It seems that colds, coughs and the flu have run rampant these last few weeks, hopefully you have not been afflicted!  Home remedies often praise ginger as a good cure-all. Have you ever wondered why?

I have, so it was time to do some homework!

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First of all, let’s take a quick look at ginger from a gardener’s point of view. Ginger is an herbaceous perennial which originally called Southeast Asia home.  Over the centuries ginger managed to be taken to far-flung corners of the world by intrepid explorers and traders, and was an important part of the spice trade in Europe.  Ginger is part of the zingiberaceae family, which also includes turmeric and cardamom.

The plant itself grows about three feet tall, and has slender leaves. It has lovely yellow blooms, and for the lucky folks who live in tropical areas, they can use the plant in their landscaping. Ginger is grown from a rhizome. For farmers who grow ginger commercially, they may have two harvests: one at around four or five months from planting, when the ginger is to be used for candy or as a root, and one at about eight to ten months, when the ginger is to be used for the dry ginger that we have among our spice jars.

Ginger has been a popular spice for thousands of years; in the thirteenth century, a pound of ginger was equal in value to one sheep! And look how we still enjoy it today: as the spice for our baking, the fresh root for exotic recipes, candied for special baking, and in sodas, teas, or pickled. What is it in ginger that makes it a favorite in healing folklore? Ginger has chemicals that reduce inflammation and are said to help alleviate nausea. We have all heard it said that ginger helps those suffering with colds or upset tummies. The main reason for this is gingerol, a compound in ginger that is said to be an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.  

I found it interesting to read about this herb, because from the many claims to fame that ginger has for healing various ailments, it sounds like studies do not really know why it works, since no one property of ginger really stands out among the rest. But yet, this fragrant and tasty spice has been part of alternative medicine for thousands of years. And even now, we all have enjoyed ginger ale for an upset tummy, or found ginger tea to be very soothing when we have a cold or congestion.

Guess what?  If we wanted to try to grow a ginger plant indoors, we can! We would simply buy a ginger root at the store in the produce aisle. We should soak it first for a couple hours, then plant it just below the surface in a wide, flatter container using regular potting soil. We should keep the soil moist and warm, and in a few weeks we will hopefully be rewarded with the first shoots of this exotic plant!

Chinese New Year is Saturday, January 25, and it is the year of the Rat, according to the Chinese zodiac. That is an honorable sign, associated with wit, spirit, alertness, and vitality!

The public holiday continues till January 30.  Let’s keep oranges in the house as symbols of happiness and good luck, and a bamboo plant sends wishes of abundance and wealth.

In Cantonese, “Gong hei fat choy” is the most common greeting for happy Chinese New Year!

The Yorkton and District Horticultural Society will be having their first meeting of 2020 on Wednesday, March 19.  Meetings are always the third Wednesday of the month, 7 p.m. at SIGN on North Street.  Visit us at www.yorktonhort.ca to see what’s “coming up”, and have a great week!

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