We are pulling out our first harvest of ginger, tumeric and galangal from our Thai patch! These root crops are easy to grow in a hot spot.
These root spices can be grown from pieces of tuber – Last September I planted ginger, turmeric and galangal about 10cm beneath the soil and crossed my fingers. Water is needed nearly daily to emulate tropical monsoon weather. Don’t worry if you don’t see any action for a while, mine took 8 weeks to sprout out of the ground.
You can start digging little pieces of ginger or galangal when it’s about four months old. Just dig carefully at the side of a clump. Young green ginger has less flavour than mature ginger. The best time to harvest ginger is any time after the leaves have died down. Break up the rhizomes, select a few nice ones with good growing buds for replanting in which you can replant them straight away. The rest can be used in the kitchen, peel, chop and freeze the whole lot.
Galangal (Kah) is used in soups such as Tom Yum and Tom Kha Gai, curry pastes and is sliced up for use in salads. Ginger (King) is used in many different dishes. It's spicier than galangal and the skin must be peeled before using. Young Ginger (King On) is picked earlier than ginger and has a more subtle flavour. The skin can be left on for cooking. Tumeric provides not only a spectacular colour to curries but subtle flavour as well and can be ground, chopped or grated for not only Thai recipes but Middle Eastern dishes as well.
Make sure you select fresh, plump rhizomes. Look for pieces with well developed ‘eyes’ or growth buds. The buds look like little horns at the end of a piece or finger. Soak the rhizomes in water over night to speed up the growth. Find a light spot with no direct sun. In temperate zones the best planting time is late winter/early spring but if you live in the true tropics do it late in the dry season/early wet season. Select a spot where the plants get plenty of light but no direct sun, and where they are protected from wind.
Cut or break up the ginger and galangal rhizomes in smaller pieces with a couple of growing buds each or just plant the whole thing. Plant your ginger root five to ten centimetres deep, with the growing buds facing up. It grows to 60cm high. Towards the end of summer, as the weather starts cooling down, your ginger will start to die back so reduce watering, even let the ground dry out. This encourages the ginger to form rhizomes. Once all the leaves have died down your ginger is ready for harvest.
Thai herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables are at home in a tropical and subtropical climate, but if you live in a temperate climate you will need to find a warm, frost free microclimate within your garden. A north westerly location is good with reflected heat from a wall is good, as is a spot under eaves to avoid the effect of frost. But a shaded area is necessary too for the growing of the shade loving plants.
Where to buy
If you have a friend growing ginger, tumeric or galangal you can ask for a section of root to grow yourself. But you’ll be able to buy many of the root spices such ginger at the markets, and you can track down galangal, turmeric and lemon grass mail order (www.greenharvest.com.au).
When to plant
The time to plant is early spring or if you life in the tropics between October and March. Add organic compost and manures to improve the nutrient of the soil and mound up the soil for maximum drainage.