Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ginger snap

We spent a nice evening in a friend's garden for dinner. Their garden is planted with lush tropical foliage - huge philodendron leaves bigger than your head; giant bird-of-paradise soaring high above the dinner table; fuchsia dripping with jeweled blossoms. The air was fragrant with jasmine. This flowering ginger plant was blooming next to my chair.

This is Alpina zerumbet. It is also widely available in a form with variegated leaves.

For those who want a taste of the tropics at home - did you know you can easily grow ginger as a house plant? Supermarket ginger is Zingiber officianale.

I never used to have fresh ginger at hand when I needed it for cooking, because after I bought it and used a little bit, the rest of the root ended up shriveled and moldy in the bottom of my crisper drawer.

But I found out you can grow your own! Just buy a nice plump rhizome of ginger at the supermarket. Pick one that looks fresh, not dried up, and has lots of lumps and branches. Plant it on its side, shallowly, in a pot of good potting soil. If you've ever planted bearded irises, this will be familiar to you. Help get it started by enclosing the pot in a plastic bag. Once you see the shoots forming, you can remove the bag.

Ginger likes indirect sun, and enough water to keep it from drying out. It has greenish-yellow flowers marked with purple - it's very rare that a house-grown ginger plant will flower, but you may get lucky! and you can break off a chunk of your plant's rhizome for cooking whenever you need it.

Add some spice to your life!

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