Now I must admit ginger is not the easiest crop to grow well, but then the sense of achievement is all the greater. The foliage has wide grass like leaves angled on verdant thick rush like green stems, somewhat resembling a rare lily, and reaching a couple of feet or even a metre in height. But it’s the underground part that’s most interesting; it’s the spice of commerce. And as ginger is not grown from seed the simplest way to start is with a fresh shop bought hand.
Choose one with plump buds showing – choose carefully; to give a longer shelf life these are sometimes abraded off. Wash the hand well to remove any anti-sprouting compounds and cut off buds with a hazelnut sized piece of the flesh from behind at a convenient position- more is better. You can even plant the whole hand if you wish but this is no great advantage. Let the cut-off budded pieces dry for a day or two in a warm sunny place to help heal their wounds. Then pot each in gritty sterile compost and preferably root in a propagator with some bottom heat, though they will usually take on a warm sunny windowsill.
Fat white roots delve deep as the buds start to grow so keep the plants regularly potted up, tall narrow pots are most suitable. Mild bottom heat is not essential but if continued throughout the season will result in a much larger crop. Although needing plenty of light the plants do best in diffused or dappled light, as with Gardenias, so are better grown in amongst other plants rather than on their own. By midsummer the plants need to be in quite large pots if they are doing well, even small buckets. By autumn the base of each stem will have grown to a golf ball sized swelling- this is known as stem ginger. Peeled then boiled in sugar syrup, cooled and re-boiled several times this makes the well known delicious sweet. It can be eaten whilst wet with syrup or candied further and coated in sugar crystals.
The surplus syrup can be used for ginger flavouring. Or if you wait longer the foliage dies down, falls off and you have a new hand or more of root ginger -which keeps longest when cool and dry. You could peel and slice this, dry it out completely and reduce it to ginger powder to store for even longer. Whichever- but don’t forget to save some plump buds for the following years crop.