Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a plant species of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). The natural home of the ginger plant is not certain. It may have its origins in the Pacific Islands. Today ginger is cultivated throughout tropical and subtropical Asia, in parts of Africa and South America as well as in Jamaica. Jamaica ginger, with its particularly intense aroma, is the most traded ginger in the West, while Nigerian ginger is considered to be very pungent but low in aroma.
The word “ginger” probably has its origin in Sanskrit and literally means “antler-shaped”. In fact, the plant’s knobbly, underground rootstocks or rhizomes resemble antlers. These are used raw, as powder or cooked. The ginger tuber was already used as a medicinal plant in ancient China. Confucius (551-479 B.C.) is said to have always taken it when travelling against nausea. Ginger is also used in Ayurveda for various health problems and is an important ingredient for East Asian dishes. The fruity pungency of ginger is due to the so-called pungent substances gingerole and shogaole. The tubers also contain essential oil, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, sodium and phosphorus.
The tuber-like thickened fleshy ginger rhizomes form annual bushy 60 to 100 centimeter high shoots from which the flower spikes grow.
Ginger has unstalked stem leaves with narrow leaf blades about 20 centimeters long. They remind you of bamboo leaves.
In addition to the false stem, cone-like inflorescences sprout from the rhizomes. They have green-yellow bracts with many flowers from sepals and petals. The stamens are violet and have a pleasant sweet scent.
The fruits of ginger are fleshy, berry-like capsules.
Location and substrate
Due to its tropical origin, ginger grows best in a warm, sunny place on the windowsill in a nutrient- and humus-rich substrate, which should always be slightly moist.
Planting and care
The best way to grow ginger yourself is to grow it in a pot on the windowsill. Place a three to five centimeter long piece of ginger rhizome flat in a plant pot filled with potting soil and cover lightly with soil. Subsequently, the substrate is moistened and the pot is covered with a foil hood to keep the humidity high. At the bottom of the pot you should fill in a layer of expanded clay as a drainage so that excess water can drain off well. For the ginger root to sprout, it needs a semi-shade place that is at least 20 degrees warm. However, the sprouting ginger root does not tolerate the blazing sun. After a few weeks, the rhizome begins to take root. When a shoot has finally formed, you should move the young ginger plant to a lighter place. Water the ginger plant regularly with lime-free water. The root ball should always be kept moist. But be careful: in stagnant earth the rhizomes quickly begin to rot. Spray the leaves occasionally with lime-free water.
While the ginger plant loves it bright and warm in summer, it needs a cool place of about ten degrees in winter. However, it does not tolerate frost. Now you shouldn’t water any more, because the plant ends its vegetation cycle and moves in, as you know it from tulips and other bulbous plants. Only the rhizome remains.
Harvesting and recycling
The ginger rhizome is harvested in autumn. You can tell from the yellowish leaves that your ginger is ripe. It can now be processed fresh. If you dry the rhizomes for several days, they will gain in sharpness. You can eat the peeled ginger tubers raw – for example as an addition to tea, juices or salads. You can also use it to add a spice to dishes that goes particularly well with many Asian dishes. Ginger is also known as a side dish to sushi, it gives the fish a spicy spicy aroma. Dried ginger is mainly used as a powder.
Ginger as a medicinal plant
The association for the promotion of natural healing according to Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus, has named ginger medicinal plant of the year 2018. In the justification it is stated that the association wants to “make the medicinal effects of this spice, which is common in Asian cuisine, better known”. Ginger has been one of the most important medicinal plants in Asia for thousands of years, including in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It has also gained importance as a remedy in Europe. Gingerols are responsible not only for the pungent taste of ginger, but also for a large part of the healing effects of rhizomes. Gingerols are very similar to aspirin in their chemical structure and effectiveness. In other words, they inhibit the aggregation of thrombocytes (the accumulation of blood platelets), which significantly reduces the risk of blood vessel occlusion (thrombosis) and arteriosclerosis. Gingerols also relieve pain, help against dizziness and nausea and also relieve travel sickness. Ginger belonged already centuries ago in the board pharmacy of each sailing ship, because the sailors chewed the ginger tubers, in order to relieve the symptoms of the seasickness. Ginger has altogether a very positive effect on the digestive tract. In the intestine, gingeroles act as antagonists to the hormone serotonin. Because of this property, ginger is a helpful remedy for nausea, flatulence and intestinal cramps. It stimulates the appetite and promotes the production of digestive juices. Ginger also activates the production of bile and thus facilitates the digestion of fat. The pungent substances gingerol also stimulate the secretion of saliva and sweat because they irritate the heat receptors in the stomach. They thus ensure an extremely intense burning and heat feeling.
Because of its strong flavour, fresh ginger can only be eaten in small portions. Dried and then candied, it tastes milder. Ginger tea is also very popular with its soothing and anti-inflammatory effect on sore throats and colds. Simply cut a piece of ginger into thin slices, blanch it with boiling water and let it steep for five to ten minutes. For a stronger and spicier ginger tea, let the ginger steep for twenty minutes or longer. If you like, you can refine the tea with lemon juice and honey. When you buy ginger nodules, make sure that they feel firm. The skin must be smooth and firm. It is best to store fresh, unpeeled ginger wrapped in kitchen paper in an airtight container in the vegetable compartment.
To propagate ginger, simply break off a piece of rhizome from the mother plant in spring and plant it in a pot of its own as described above.
Diseases and pests
Ginger is a rather robust plant, as the pungent substances it contains also protect it from most harmful organisms. A culture that is too wet, however, often leads to root rot. At the same time, fungus mosquitoes often settle in the pot substrate.