Grow your own antioxidant-rich ginger

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Grow ginger for its edible and medicinal purposes – it’s easier than you think.

By Jane Wrigglesworth

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is the most commonly used edible ginger that provides spice to many of our culinary dishes. But it’s also the ginger used most often for medicinal purposes. Other species have medicinal value, but their actions are different.

This pungent edible has anti-inflammatory, antiemetic (reduces nausea and vomiting), antiplatelet (prevents blood clots), antispasmodic, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, among others. It is an effective treatment for stomach cramps, coughs, chest infections and stuffed noses. As a circulatory stimulant, it also helps to carry other herbs throughout the body, boosting their effectiveness. Feverfew and ginger taken together, for example, have shown to be an effective treatment against migraines. Its anti-inflammatory actions can also help reduce pain and swelling of those suffering from osteoarthritis.

The freshly squeezed juice from the root (technically it’s a rhizome) can be taken in a hot tea, or simply grate the root and infuse this in boiling water. It’s great to sup on when coughs and colds are rampant. The active constituents in ginger peak about 60 minutes after drinking, then begin to decline, so for acute conditions, drink this ginger tea every two to three hours.

Ginger tea

To make a ginger juice tea, juice four thumb-sized pieces of ginger. The leftover plant material can be used in cooking. Add ¼ cup ginger juice and ¼ cup lemon juice to 350ml freshly boiled water. Add 1 tablespoon honey and stir.

How to grow

Ginger is a tropical plant but can be grown indoors or in a greenhouse. It’s best planted in spring or early summer and harvested in autumn. It likes filtered sunlight, humidity and rich soil.

To plant a store-bought rhizome, choose a plump, juicy rhizome with ‘eyes’ (growth buds). Slice the rhizomes, making sure there is at least one bud on each piece. Plant in a container of free-draining mix with compost added. Each piece of rhizome needs about 20cm of space; a container at least 30cm deep is ideal. Plant 5cm deep with the growth buds facing up. Keep the soil moist but not soggy and feed regularly.

The leaves and flower stalks die down in late autumn, at which time you can harvest your ginger.

Want more? Check out Jane’s online herb workshop.

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