More than a year after I rooted the rhizomes, I finally have my first ginger harvest!
I rooted the rhizomes back in October 2010 using store-bought ginger with healthy growing nubs. They overwintered in the ground and slowly started growing again this past spring, putting out new shoots and leaves and becoming lush, green plants just under 2 feet tall.
As temperatures cooled, the foliage died back naturally, indicating a good time to harvest. This happened right “on schedule,” as ginger is mature for harvest about eight months after planting. In climates with frost, ginger is normally planted in early spring so that it can be harvested in late fall when the foliage starts to die back. The mild winters in SoCal, however, allow for rhizomes to be left in the ground where they stay dormant until spring.
If I had let my plants overwinter again, the ginger would resume growing upon warmer weather and even start blooming. Most gardeners never see flowers on their ginger crop though, since they’re typically treated as annuals.
Once the leaves on my plant turned brown, I carefully dug around the withered stem until I found a knob of ginger poking out from the soil. If you’re very good, you can pull up the whole thing in one piece. I happen to not be very good, so I freed the ginger in random chunks.
Ginger can be harvested piece by piece by digging up and breaking off a small section of the rhizome, leaving the rest underground to continue growing. A harvest around six months gives you baby ginger, which has a milder flavor and light, tender skin (without the rough outer peel). Or, you can pull up the whole clump at maturity, cut off what you need, and replant the remaining chunk, making sure you leave a couple of good sprouting buds on it.
After realizing I don’t like digging up thickly rooted plants, I decided to harvest all my rhizomes this week, and root new ones later this winter in a large container. That way, I can simply tip the whole container over next winter and hope for handfuls of ginger to come tumbling out!
So there you have it. My first ginger harvest. They do clean up nicely!