30 November 2016

Growing and using ginger

Ginger is one of those plants that fits easily into the kitchen for cooking or making drinks. Many of us use ginger in our cooking or to make ginger beer and ginger syrup, which are both healthy drinks for for summer or winter.  In summer drink we drink our ginger drinks with ice, in winter I add one or two tablespoons to black tea to add warmth and spice.

Above: the first batch of ginger syrup yielded 2 litres. Below: the second batch gave me an extra 1.2 litres.

Ginger syrup is the easiest drink to make and it's a great addition to your drinks menu over the Christmas holidays. Simply grate or finely chop a large piece of ginger root, you'll need at least a cup full of ginger. Don't get too precious with the amounts - it doesn't have to be exact.

To 2 litres of water add two cups of sugar and bring to the boil. When the sugar has dissolved, add the ginger and simmer the mix for an hour.  Turn off the heat, put the lid on the saucepan, and leave it sitting on the stove overnight to develop flavour.

The next day, pour the mix through a fine strainer to remove the ginger pulp and store the liquid in a sealed, sterilised bottle. Use this mix as you would use any cordial - a small amount mixed with cold tap water or mineral water. Generally this is about one part syrup to four parts water but the amount you use will depend on your own taste. Experiment until you find the right balance. It can be stored in the cupboard or fridge.

Don't throw out the ginger pulp, you'll get a second batch from it.  Collect the used ginger, add it back to the saucepan and use half the amount of water and sugar you used for the first batch. The process is the same - bring to the boil, simmer for an hour, turn the heat off and leave the mix on the stove overnight. Bottle the following day.

And because we are the people we are, let's try to grow our own ginger.

Ginger is one of those plants that can be grown in almost all climates and although it's easy to grow, it  grows slowly. It will take almost a year to grow a crop. The most difficult part of growing ginger is finding the right spot for it to grow. Some of you will have to grow it in a pot but if you're in a tropical or sub-tropical area, it can be grown in the ground as long as it's protected from wind and it gets afternoon shade. You must plant the ginger in spring.

Find some fresh, plump ginger at the shop, if there are buds already forming, that's a bonus.  If the piece of ginger is a large one, you can break off segments as long as they contain at least one bud and have 4 or 5 cm of rhizome under the bud.  Soak the ginger overnight in a bowl of water.

Warm climate
If you're planting in the ground, prepare the soil by adding compost and digging it in. Plant each piece of ginger about 5 cm deep with the shoots facing upwards and water in.  Make sure the area you pick is protected from winds, has good drainage and gets afternoon shade.

If you're not in a warm climate or if you want to plant in a pot
To plant in a large pot, fill the pot with good quality potting mix and plant the ginger 5cm deep with the shoots facing up. Water it in. If you're in a hot climate, the pot will need afternoon shade, in a cold climate it might need to be placed close to a wall for extra warmth but it certainly needs to be out of the wind. When it gets cold, take the pot inside to a warm sunny spot.

Don't let the plant dry out but don't over water either - the ginger will rot if it sits in water for too long.  After a couple of weeks, when shoots start growing, apply seaweed concentrate made up according to the instructions, or a weak liquid fertiliser. Comfrey tea is ideal. Continue to fertilise with a weak mix every two weeks until the green shoots start to die back in autumn/winter. When the shoots are brown and shrivelled, it's time to harvest your ginger.

Good luck, ginger lovers. 🌿 


  1. Thank you, Rhonda. I bought some fresh ginger at the farmers' market here in Michigan this summer, that was grown in a greenhouse, delicious. Going to try this in a pot.

    1. That's great Gillie. The most difficult part will be finding the right place. Plants have a preferred microclimate and when you find it, they grow like the clappers. Use your common sense and watch the plant. If it looks unhappy or isn't shooting out any green foliage, move it and try another spot. If it looks healthy and is doing everything you want it to, just protect and feed it and it will repay you. Good luck.

  2. Very interesting! I don't think I use enough ginger to make it worth my while way up North, but it's always interesting to learn something new.

  3. hmm, Im not sure how it would grow here in SA. I have some herbs that have finished so once I remove them Ill have to pop them in their place in the protected area near the house.


  4. What a timely post, I'm in the process of making a batch of Ginger beer.
    I planted some ginger ages ago, and it never grew, I had forgotten about it, and given it up for dead when low and behold, it appeared in the garden a few weeks ago, I was over the moon!

  5. Is there a difference between ornamental ginger and "normal" ginger do you know? I have a plot of ginger, growing forgotten behind my mulberry tree, it's a few years old now, but I'm sure it's a mix of ginger started from a piece of ginger from the shop and ornamental ginger someone gave me.
    I had no idea when to harvest so thanks for letting me know about that (though I'm never actually aware of the green shoots dying back), but I am wondering if I am going to make us sick by possibly using both types of ginger? Would anyone know?


    1. There are hundreds of ornamental gingers, Anna. As far as I know they're not edible. The common edible gingers are the ginger we use for drinks and food, galangal and turmeric.

    2. Thank you. Anyway of knowing the difference?

  6. I have been growing ginger here in Mackay for the last 3 years which started from just one piece from the fruit shop, it grew 3 kilos of ginger, I kept some small pieces with buds and re planted, the second crop was about 2 1/2 kilos and this years crop was 4 kilos. I now have 3 grocery bags full of ginger in my freezer because we don't eat a lot of ginger but I am planning on making ginger cordial and de hydrating some to make ginger powder, also the left over pulp from cordial ,I freeze and then use in ginger nut biscuits, they are so delicious with real ginger in them.

    1. That's fabulous, Sian. Well done! haven't used the twice-used pulp yet but I'll certainly give it a go in baking the next time I have some.

  7. I also make ginger syrup and during winter have it in my tea at night, since doing this I have not suffered from a cold. Which I used to get every year. I use the pulp in biscuits and cake but use most as candy. I dry it in the oven on a very low heat and into teaspoon size shape.


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