Gingers are tropical plants that thrive in the subtropical and tropical regions of the U.S. Their foliage and flowers can add flare to an otherwise boring landscape. Gingers not only spruce up the garden, but many are edible. The roots are used in many cuisines and nothing beats the smell of ginger cookies baking in the oven. The standard ginger root you find in the supermarket is Zingiber officinale. It is the most popularly used, but other species of ginger produce edible roots too.
Zingiber officinale is an herbaceous perennial and its tuberous roots are the common ginger we use everyday. Originating in Asia, this ginger is now cultivated and used throughout the world. The leaves are green, narrow and the flowers are barely noticeable. This ginger grows to height of four feet, prefers growing in partial sun, likes a well-drained soil and is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 12. Use the root to propagate plants. Select a firm ginger root that has several nodules on it (eyes). Cut off the section of the eye and plant it one inch deep into the soil. This ginger has been found to work well for persons suffering from motion sickness.
Curcuma longa is another edible ginger commonly called turmeric. As with Zingiber officinale, Curcuma longa is easy to grow and is quite a bit showier in the landscape. Growing to a height of three feet, its leaves are deep green, lush and grow to a width of approximately five inches. This ginger will die back when winter arrives, but the tubers will sprout again in springtime. Turmeric is the spice used in mustard to make it yellow. The tubers are used as you would common ginger and it has the same growing requirements.
Alpinia galangal is a taller ginger and is quite hardy. It can grow to a height of seven feet and has small white blooms that are hardly noticeable. It will grow well in partial sun conditions and as the other gingers, prefers a soil that drains very well. Many Thai recipes use Alpinia galangal roots for seasoning, as it can be used like other edible gingers. In cooler regions of the hardiness zone, this ginger may die back in the winter. It will sprout again in the springtime. As with all gingers, propagate Alpinia galangal by planting a nodule from its root.
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