4 Clever Uses for Ginger- and How to Grow it!

Ginger is a valuable ingredient in food and drinks the world over, not to mention expensive- yet it’s easy to grow at home from just one bulb. A little bit can go a long way, and we can add ginger to all sorts of drinks and food. And it has a ton of other uses! Did you know you can add ginger to compresses, cleaning products, and potpourri?

But what happens when you grow a ton of ginger like I did?? Like literally, I had a huge pile of it. What can you do with all of that?! It’s a fantastic ingredient, & definitely too expensive to waste, so you’ll want to use all of it. When you’ve got nice organic soil with the right conditions, it’s easy to grow- I’ve been growing huge amounts of ginger for many years now. You can too,,,scroll down to see my growing guide below.

There are so many uses for ginger and recipes that include it. Here are my top 4 clever uses for ginger, which happen to be family favourites.

Mild candied ginger

CRYSTALLISED GINGER

A fantastic old-school sweet treat that lasts for ages! Snack on it any time without feeling guilty.

Here’s how to make it.

  1. Choose pale-coloured, large, soft and juicy roots, as they will give you the best results for crystallised ginger. Wash each root under water and slip the skin off with your fingers. If the skin doesn’t slip off easily, the ginger is too old for this recipe.

2. Slice the roots in such a way that each slice has a large surface area- a diagonal cut is often best. Make the slices about 4-5 mm (1/4″) thick. For a good amount of crystallised ginger you’ll need 500-700grams (1-1.5 pounds), this is usually about 6 roots. *HOT TIP* weigh before slicing, it’s much easier!

3. Cover with water and boil the ginger slices for around 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid.

Peeled ginger

4. Now you’re going to boil the ginger again, but this time with sugar. Place the ginger in a saucepan, barely covered with hot water and add 1 cup of sugar for roughly every 500 grams of ginger that you started with. Boil for 5 minutes then turn off the heat. Keep the lid on and allow to cool. Strain off this sweet liquid and add to the previously reserved liquid. Store all the liquid in the fridge- we have other uses for this, coming up!

5. Spread the ginger on trays lined with baking paper to dry. For drying, either place the trays in a dry sunny spot or use a dehydrator. (if using a dehydrator, follow your own appliances’ guidelines. My large drier takes 1 -2 hours to dehydrate 4 shelves of product). Either way the ginger is ready when the outside feels dry but the inside still has that ‘tooth’ feel. Allow to cool completely.

6. Toss the ginger in some powdered icing sugar and store in an airtight container in a cool place. This ginger will be stronger than any you can buy in a store, yet so refreshing and energising. The anti-nausea properties of ginger have been known for centuries so a pack of homemade crystallised ginger is a nice gift for a sick friend.

If something a bit sweeter takes your fancy, we have a recipe for candied ginger, which you can find right here.

COLD DRINKS

The reserved liquid from boiling ginger (see above) is a fantastic additive to drinks. It keeps for up to three weeks, and makes a base for cordial, tea, fresh summer cocktails, iced tea and liqueur.

All you need to do for cocktails, cordial and iced tea is dilute your ginger liquid to the strength you like, then add your choice of soda water, mineral water or soft drink (soda). Twist it up by adding slices of lemon, lime, a couple of strawberries and some ice.

Freezing the liquid for later use works too. Simply pour it into ice cubes trays and pop them in the freezer. When you want a dash of ginger flavour, simply add a cube or two to your drinks.

Making a ginger liqueur is another option. Essentially it’s a mix of vodka, sugar, and your ginger liquid, so its easy to make. The usual ratio of liquid to vodka is 50/50. You can change it up to as much as 70% vodka and 30% ginger liquid if your liquid is very strong or you want a more potent drink. If your ginger liquid isn’t strong enough for your taste it can be boiled down further before mixing with the alcohol. Add sugar according to the desired sweetness. There’s room for experimentation too! You might prefer rum or whisky instead of vodka so why not give it a try?

SAUCES AND SYRUPS

Your ginger liquid is a flavoursome addition to many foods, both sweet and savoury. You’ll need to boil it again to reduce the water content and make it more of a concentrate or syrup. This can be poured on to ice cream as a topping, added to cakes and biscuits or used as a savoury sauce in a stir fry.

HOT DRINKS

Ginger liquid can be heated and consumed as a tea when dilute. Add a dash of honey if you like. If you prefer a spicier brew, try using the reduced ginger syrup with chai. Steep a chai tea bag in a cup of very hot water that is 50/50 syrup and boiling water.

Freshly harvested ginger
freshly harvested ginger

HOW TO GROW GINGER

Ginger is one of the most hardy edibles you can grow, and it’s really low maintenance. As long as the soil is fertile and free-draining, it will flourish.

Ginger grows easily in containers. I’ve written in detail about growing ginger before (you can see the article here), but here’s a simple and effective way to grow it in containers. Container growing is great for beginners, if you have limited space or just want your garden to be portable- not to mention, it’s easy to get the containers for free. Ginger grows from the root (or rhizome) into a large flowering plant about 2 to 3 feet tall, so a strong container is perfect for this plant.

Years ago I started growing my first ginger in large rectangular ‘butchers tubs’ (plastic totes) sitting up on the arms of old outdoor chairs. Styrofoam veggie boxes make a great substitute and these can usually be sourced for free from a fruit shop near you. They should already have holes for drainage, but if they don’t, use a box cutter to make small holes, as ginger needs good drainage.

To find ginger suitable for planting, try your local farmers market. Supermarket ginger is often old and might be chemically-treated, so fresh and organic will give you the best results. Choose pieces that are firm, rounded and fresh-looking. One decent-sized rhizome is enough, as this one piece will produce several plants for you.

Growing ginger is really easy Fill your tub with fresh organic potting mix blended with a bit of compost, chicken manure pellets and blood & bone. Plant your rhizomes, water regularly, then wait for it to grow! Ginger needs warmth to get going, so planting it in spring in a sunny position is recommended. If you remember, give each tub a top-up of potassium fertiliser once the plants have 4 to 6 leaves. This fertilising is easier than it sounds- all you need to do is tip some ash from a fire on to the tub and water it in.

While you’re at it, why not grow a bit of turmeric and galangal as well? Both can be grown in the same way, as they are part of the same ‘vegetable family’ and are just as easy. See my 5 tips on how to grow a ton of galangal in a container or garden bed video, and for turmeric I have 5 tips on how to grow a ton of turmeric in a 3 sq. ft garden bed.

Ginger plant growing under gum trees
fully grown ginger plants

Now comes the harvesting. When you see the first flower spike appear under the leaves, your ginger is ready to harvest. This will take from 3 months in a tropical climate to 9 months in colder regions. Ginger can be harvested at any time, but the younger the plant, the milder the ginger will be. Older ginger will be spicier but also more fibrous & tougher, so bear this in mind when cooking.

Once harvested, you can re-plant one of your rhizomes for the next season. Choose one of the strongest and healthiest, as it’ll make for strong plants with a high yield. Renew all the potting mix and fertilisers and use the old soil elsewhere in your garden.

If you’d like to learn even more about ginger, check out my youtube videos, 5 tips on how to grow a ton of ginger in one container or garden bed and how to plant and grow ginger in a raised garden bed.

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