Grow Turmeric and Ginger in Any Climate

These edible, flavorful roots thrive best in warmer climates, but with the proper attention and know-how you can grow them almost anywhere.

| Spring 2017

The bounty of the tropics overflows from our pantries and spice cabinets. Vanilla, allspice, cocoa, pepper, coffee, cinnamon — riches we consume regularly with only the vaguest idea of how they were grown or even what their parent plants looked like.

Though many of these equatorial edibles are impossible to grow in gardens where frost traces its embroidery across leaves, it’s not impossible to grow two of my favorites: zippy common ginger (Zingiber officinale) and its spicy yellow cousin, turmeric (Curcuma longa). For both of these plants, the rhizome — an underground stem that puts out shoots and roots — is the edible part.

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If you live in a warmer part of the United States, from Zone 8 and higher (and maybe in Zone 7 with mulch!), you can grow these must-have perennial spices right in the ground. Farther north, it’s still possible with a little work. Ready? Let’s grow our own curry and gingerbread!

How to Plant

Ginger is a perennial root crop. It doesn’t produce seeds, which is fine because all you need to grow ginger (and turmeric) are some fresh rhizomes with living “eyes” on them. The eyes are growth buds from which the green shoots grow. Chances are you won’t even have to buy rhizomes or starts from a seed company, as many grocery stores — particularly organic markets — stock fresh rhizomes right in the produce section. Just make sure the eyes aren’t cut off (as I’ve seen done on some imported Chinese ginger).

If you’re interested in growing ginger to sell, you’re better off buying clean seed rhizomes from a reputable source — though I’ve never had trouble with any of the plants I’ve started from the grocery store or farmers market.

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