The history of ginger is rooted in India and China. It is mentioned in the Koran and in records from Ancient Rome. Some legends hold that ginger was among the plants in the Garden of Eden. Ginger was imported to the West from the East during the Middle Ages in its powdered and dried forms, often sprinkled on beverages like beer and tea to add a little spice. That may be the origin of ginger ale. It became so popular in Europe that it was set regularly on the table along with salt and pepper.
Zingiber officinale Roscoe is the preferred scientific name for the ginger plant. The ginger root is not actually a root; it is a rhizome, which is an underground stem that grows roots and shoots. Ginger may be planted among other tropical trees because it is somewhat shade tolerant. To survive in the wild it needs a tropical climate with both a heavy wet season and a long dry season. Intercropping with grains is also a possibility because ginger’s growing season is about one year long. Ginger can be harvested as early as five months commercially.
Ginger can be grown at home in a pot or in a greenhouse in climates that are not normally conducive to the survival of the plant. It is best to start growing ginger in the spring. Choose a glossy rhizome that is smooth and has buds on it, and then soak it in warm water overnight. The rhizome should then be planted in a pot that is about 11 inches deep. Ginger grown this way can be harvested in three to five months.Even with today’s technology harvesting ginger on an industrial scale is still a labor intensive process. The ginger must be dug out, and young ginger is easily bruised if not harvested correctly. A fungicide is applied, and the ginger is stored in layers of alternating ginger rhizome and sand to protect it from the elements.