Ginger is a flowering plant, indigenous to China, and grown in India and other parts of the world, including Hawaii. The ginger root (commonly called ginger) is harvested and used as a spice, side dish, natural remedy, and for flavoring. The root, or rhizome, contains oils that give ginger its aromatic and spicy flavor and smell. A clump of ginger roots is often called a “hand.”
Historically, Jamaicans popularized ginger root after it made its way to Europe in the 1500s as part of the spice trade. Today, ginger is available year round, supplied by overlapping growing seasons across the globe. China, Brazil, and Thailand are among the top exporters, and top importers include Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
Quality is characterized by skin sheen and color, size of the rhizome, and the absence of defects.
References: Texas AgriLife Extension Service; University of Florida/IFAS Extension.
TYPES & VARIETIES
Of the family Zingiberaceae, ginger comes in several varieties, the most common being Chinese, or yellow ginger, and the smaller, more pungent Japanese ginger. Thai ginger, or galangal, has a smoother, smaller root and similar flavor and odor. Organic ginger and young or green ginger—harvested early—are considered premium commodities.
In the United States, both Chinese and Japanese ginger are grown in Hawaii, which produces about 9 million pounds annually for the domestic fresh market, though the majority of U.S. supply is imported from China, Brazil, Thailand, and Central America.
References: Produce Marketing Association, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, University of Florida/IFAS Extension.
PESTS & DISEASE
Common pests include the Chinese rose beetle, which feeds on the leaves of the plant; Fijian ginger weevil, that burrows into the root and can kill the plant; the ginger maggot feeds on rotting roots and plants, and can transmit disease to healthy crops, while lesser cornstalk borer caterpillars can damage shoots and plants in dry conditions.
Nigra and Turmeric root scale (thought to be eradicated from Hawaii) feed on sap and can diminish plant vitality. Various diseases can wilt plants and cause root rot, including bacterial wilt and soft rot, Fusarium yellow and rhizome rot, bacterial leaf blight, Pythium soft rot, and red rot.
Other diseases that can cause root defects such as legions, cracking, russeting, and rot include root-knot and burrowing nematodes, leafspot, and alligator skin.
Proper postharvest storage is critical to prevent spoilage by fungi and bacteria.
References: University of Florida/IFAS Extension, University of Hawaii.