Over the past five or six years, an increasing number of vendors at the Durham and Carrboro Farmers’ Markets have been offering fresh culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale) in the autumn. Ginger is a tropical plant, but it grows very well in North Carolina during the summer. In late 2016, I noticed that several farms were also offering something new. It looked like ginger, but the rhizomes were orange. I hadn’t realized that turmeric also comes from a member of the ginger family (Curcuma longa).
I bought a small piece of turmeric rhizome and stored it in a paper bag over the winter. Some Z. officinale rhizomes purchased at the same time objected to this treatment and shriveled up, but the turmeric was tougher. In spring 2017, I put it in a 5-gallon pot (that’s puny US gallons; approximately 4.2 imperial gallons or 19 liters), and it sprouted vigorously. In October, I cut the leafy stems and put the pot in the crawl space of our house where it would stay cool and dry. When I dumped out the soil this past Saturday, this is what I found.
The smaller piece has gone to the kitchen, and I have replanted the larger piece along with a couple of other culinary gingers. One vendor at the Durham Farmers’ Market had greater galangal (Alpinia galanga) for sale last autumn, and the chunk that I bought is already sprouting. Maybe home-grown galangal will be less fibrous than the semi-mummified pieces of rhizome for sale at the local Asian supermarket. I’m also trying again with another piece of Z. officinale.
Looking forward to a spicy autumn.