I’ve had a lovely display of tropical green plants this summer–and the fun (and flavors) of harvesting my own rhizomes from the “garden” on my front deck. These two plants are worth having for the appearance, as well as the flavors from the leaves, stems, and rhizomes of both these plants.
As autumn progresses towards winter, these both will likely die back, but I can anticipate their reappearance in the spring. I doubt that I have enough light indoors (even with basic grow lights) to keep these plants alive, healthy, and flavorful, so I’ll just protect them from freezing, and wait as patiently as possible for spring! Neither of these seem difficult to grow here in NC: water, occasional fertilizer, and this is what I got to enjoy.
The culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been a pleasure all summer–the rhizome that is most often used in cooking is wonderful when it’s harvested young! It is not fibrous, and may not even need to be peeled; the flavor is milder than the mature rhizome that we usually retrieve from the market, and can be use fresh to add some spice (but not burn) to salads of both fruit and greens. Fortunately, the rhizome grows very near the surface so that it’s easy to harvest as needed and allow it to just keep right on growing. If you have well-established ginger, the young, tender stems are also edible, as well as the rhizome–and since I’m a ginger lover, I sometimes add them to salad greens.
The plants in this picture are from established rhizomes that wintered over undisturbed–I was very restrained in harvesting it last year. With protection from of the rhizomes from freezing, it came back this spring. It’s now on my list of “must have” herbs and spices. I’ll be moving this humongous pot indoors, but I’m afraid that I really can’t provide enough light to have it thrive during the winter indoors, so I’ll be anticipating the reappearance next spring.
The other addition this summer (also from second-year rhizomes) was turmeric (Curcuma longa) which I like to use fresh. (The rhizomes can sometimes be found fresh in Latino or Asian food stores.) This is also a tropical plant so I’ll try it indoors, but I doubt that I can give it enough light either–so I’ll have to wait for spring for more rhizomes. Turmeric is sometimes called “Indian saffron” because of its flavor and color–and I like to add it to rice just as I would saffron. (Warning: It will stain almost anything so handle with care.) The fresh root can be used in pickles, and I’m sure with some searching I’ll find more ways to use it. The young rhizomes, like those of ginger, and tender and not fibrous like the older, mature rhizomes. Though it seems to grow deeper I harvested it like the ginger, and it did not seem to harm the plants.
As well as the uses for the rhizome, the leaves can be used to wrap food for cooking, and possibly included in other Asian recipes for flavor–I’m looking forward to trying this before these lovely large green leaves are gone for the winter–possibly with some chicken thighs on the grill. I’ve even found references to use of turmeric leaves and roots in sweet dishes as well as savory ones. I’ve always kept turmeric powder on hand in the spice cabinet just as I do ginger root, but the fresh turmeric has now earned a place in my list of “usual” herbs and spices as well! Many new flavors to explore.
A son goût!