Vegetables

Delicious Ginger!

I love ginger. I always have some in my fridge or freezer. Its unique flavor and potency make it a great ingredient for enhancing dishes. Although I’ve been interested in how this strange “root” (rhizome) might grow, I never imagined I’d be able to grow it here in Quebec.

In my early days at Urbainculteurs, I remember attending a symposium on greenhouse cultivation. At the time, someone from the Au petits oignons farm had come to present the results of an experiment with ginger grown in the open ground, in a greenhouse. I was fascinated! What’s more, the experiment had been very conclusive. So it was possible to envisage this here.

Beautiful ginger to plant!
Credit: Les Urbainculteurs

A Difficult First Try

The years went by and I never took the idea any further, either at work or at home. In my mind, it remained an experiment. Until one day, a colleague suggested that I try ginger at the urban farm and incorporate it into our herbal tea blends. Why not, I thought!

The problem was that we were already quite late in the season, in April. For those who don’t know yet, ginger takes a long time to germinate (sometimes a month!). If I wanted to get it to germinate, produce a few leaves, and then transplant it quickly, I was pretty tight-lipped. I rushed to a grocery store that stocked organic ginger, and gave it a try. My first attempt was a disaster! My ginger never grew! As someone who usually succeeds marvelously with all my seedlings, I don’t need to tell you that it was a pretty big blow to my pride (my colleagues found it very funny, by the way!).

The experiment ended up in the compost and I didn’t think about it again for several months. At the end of the year, a colleague gave me a gift of ginger she’d grown at home. It was so delicious! I had no choice but to try again the following year, to put a balm on this first failure.

Will it grow?
Credit: Les Urbainculteurs

A Second Chance

So I started a month early (at the beginning of March). Once again, I bought organic ginger at the grocery store. My colleague and I took care to select the pieces with the most “eyes”, a sign that growth in that particular spot is a possibility. We cut all these into pieces with a knife, then put them individually into 2-inch by 2-inch pots. The rhizomes with “eyes” were planted on the surface, lightly covered with soil.

And then the waiting began, and it was long, ahah! I’m used to growing vegetables that germinate in 3 to 7 days, so I found this interminable. Unsure of how to proceed, I put the trays under the fluorescents right from the start and made sure the potting soil stayed slightly moist even if nothing came out. Then, after almost a month of waiting (maybe more, I wasn’t counting on getting there), the first stems came out! Hooray!

A small victory!
Credit: Les Urbainculteurs

This was just the beginning of the adventure, as they say. The little gingers unfurled quietly and very unevenly. I stayed the course and told myself that they would make their grand exit outdoors as soon as the risk of frost had passed, no matter what stage they were at.

To make the experience even more special, we decided to transplant the ginger outside, in the tubs, rather than in the greenhouse. We applied a good quantity of vermicompost and then fertilizer before putting the plants in the ground. At the urban farm, we were lucky enough to benefit from a sponsorship for what we call flex tunnels. It’s as if we were placing a small greenhouse over our bins, with the option of opening it in warm weather. All we had to do was wait, again.

Les constats

J’ai beaucoup aimé utiliser ces tunnels, il faisait vraiment chaud là-dessous. Le gingembre a poussé et nous avons pu faire une récolte au début de l’automne. Je n’ai pas battu des records de production, mais nous nous sommes bien amusés. Mon constat: Malgré une attente interminable pour la pousse, c’est une culture qui n’a pas vraiment nécessité d’entretien. Ensuite, je crois que j’aurais pu semer encore plus tôt afin d’obtenir des rhizomes de meilleure taille. Aussi, je suis pas mal certaine que ce genre de culture performerait bien dans des pots de géotextile si jamais vous ne pouvez pas recréer l’effet de serre. Grâce à leur couleur, ceux-ci se réchauffent facilement et offrent de bonnes conditions pour ces cultures qui aiment être au chaud.

TunnelFlex retractable mini-tunnel.
Credits Dubois Agrinovation

So this is my last experiment for 2023. I wanted to show you that, despite all our horticultural baggage, we sometimes experiment “by trial and error” without relying too much on literature, but for the sheer pleasure of experimenting. I’ve certainly learned a few lessons about growing ginger, and I think I could do even better. It’s great to always be learning and refining one’s techniques, isn’t it?

I’d also like to take this opportunity to tell you that this is the last article I’ll be sharing with you as part of my duties at Urbainculteurs. After 9 years exploring with this organization that has given me so much, I’ve made the choice (not without a twinge of regret), to end a chapter and allow myself new professional experiences. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these stories with you; I’ve always loved telling stories.

Happy gardening and see you next time!

Marie-Andrée is the urban farm manager and a trainer at Urbainculteurs, where she has been working since 2015. She plans and supervises the production of Jardins du bassin Louise, an urban vegetable farm with a social and educational vocation. Outstanding at teaching, she also co-hosts the podcast Mâche-patate and is one of the main trainers of the Urbainculteurs online training course. Les Urbainculteurs is a non-profit organization, based in Quebec since 2009. Their mission: to develop and promote a productive, accessible and responsible urban agriculture for the benefit of organizations and individuals, in order to increase food security, improve our living environments and promote an ecological transition.

6 comments on “Delicious Ginger!

  1. I knew they could grow it in warmer climates, but the idea of homegrown Canadian ginger is simply thrilling. Your mention of “strange ‘root'” made me smile – it really is such a fascinating plant. grab your phone, crank up the volume, and prepare to enter the mind-bending world of geometry dash world! Just remember, one tap can make the difference between glory and face-planting into a spike wall. Are you ready for the challenge?

  2. Organic ginger grows easier than common ginger from a common supermarket because it ‘supposedly’ is not treated with growth regulators that prevent it from sprouting prior to culinary application. However, I got some from a supposedly organic market, and they were obviously treated with some sort of growth regulator. They eventually grew months later, but very slowly. By that time, they were already beginning to rot.

  3. I live on the Pacific Northwest coast. I planted a little piece of ginger root in my green house thinking it probably wouldn’t grow. Some months later after I’d planted a couple of tomatoes bushes, I found a “weed” growing right through one of them. I tried to pull it out. It didn’t budge. Then I poked around and noticed there were many baby “weeds” all around it. Tried pulling those out. Nope. After digging down a bit I found that one giant ginger root had taken up the whole end of the raised bed! Apparently, when ginger is happy, it’s REALLY happy!

  4. Christine Lemieux

    Good luck going forward!

  5. Nancy Davin

    Hood luck in your new path!

  6. Love ginger too! Thanks for this article, will try this year? Best regards for your future endeavors!

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