Giving ginger a boost

Ginger rhizome harvested in January 2011 – 11 months old.

When I started growing culinary ginger two or so years ago, I planted one control plant in a large flower pot to see how well it would grow. Along the way, though, I read that leaving the ginger plants untouched for long periods of time would allow them to grow larger rhizomes. When I compared our first ginger harvest to the extensive knots of old ginger rhizomes sold at the market, I schooled myself to be patient, and have not harvested any more ginger for over a year – except to rescue the plants from our overenthusiastic gardeners who cut everything down…

The ginger plant in the pot has gone through a few cycles of growing and then going dormant. As with the rest of our other ginger plants, it seemed set to keep growing in a line – new growing shoots would come up after the previous one – until it hit the sides of the pot and went dormant again. It stayed dormant for so long that I was tempted to dig it up. However, it happened that I had some excess organic compost when I was doing some gardening in the vicinity of the potted ginger, and I emptied it into the pot just to be rid of it. What do you know – in about a week, a couple of new shoots began to grow out, and then more and more green sprouts began to appear…

I know that the ginger rhizome has been growing horizontally up to the sides of the pot, so these new sprouts give me an idea of the “lay of the land” below the surface. How exciting!

The positions of these new sprouts show me that the rhizome has been getting somewhat adventurous. You can see the original line of growth leading from the largest sprouts towards the lower left corner. But, what are those other sprouts doing up at the ten and eleven o’clock positions? Be still, my beating heart! We just may have a gnarly old ginger rhizome growing in this pot! Be assured that when this plant goes into its next dormant state, we will be harvesting it. I’m thrilled that my absent gesture of adding compost here has triggered this growth. Tune in again in a couple of months for the next ginger update!

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