Ginger and Turmeric a High Value Crop for Local Growers
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In January 2011 I was at a Southern SAWG Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Chattanooga, TN when I spotted Maine grower Susan Anderson’s East Branch Ginger booth at the trade show. Susan was selling certified organic disease-free ginger seed stock. I was intrigued because I knew a couple of forward-thinking farmers were experimentally growing ginger in North Carolina but very little was known about it. So I hung around Susan’s booth during her presentations until the crowds had cleared away and then introduced myself. I told her I was an Agriculture Agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension and asked her if she would be willing to do a presentation on growing ginger at a Cooperative Extension workshop in Chatham County, North Carolina. She said yes! Long story short…a mere two months later we did our first Ginger Production Workshop in Chatham County, she and her husband and two kids ended up moving to Chatham County that May and and we went on to do two more workshops in 2012 on growing ginger and turmeric. In all, about 250 growers from across the state attended these workshops. East Branch Ginger has now transitioned to producing microgreens and edible flowers and Susan and I have become good friends. And many growers are now growing these specialty crops across the state!
I was recently out at Granite Springs Farm in Pittsboro while grower Meredith Leight was harvesting ginger and turmeric. Meredith attended our ginger and turmeric workshops in 2011 and 2012 and has grown these crops every year since! She tells me they are the most high value crops she produces. She sells ginger and turmeric at the Pittsboro Farmers’ Market, to local restaurants, through her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and to Farmer Foodshare. Local brewers have made tasty beer from Meredith’s ginger. Ginger and turmeric are available on-line from the Granite Springs Farm on-line store. Chefs and customers wanting five pounds or more should contact her directly for wholesale pricing and delivery options.
Meredith raises her ginger and turmeric in high tunnels. Seed stock arrives in February and is pre-sprouted in flats of coco coir in a germination chamber that maintains high temperatures and high humidity. After about a month of pre-sprouting, the seed pieces are planted in the ground in March (some growers plant into plastic grow bags) once soil temperatures are consistently above 50° F and actively warming. Ginger is a heavy feeder and gets hilled and fertilized about three times during the growing season. Hilling ensures the rhizomes stay covered during growth and increases yield. Baby ginger is harvested about six months after planting while turmeric takes about seven months. NC growers produce baby ginger which is tender with robust flavor and not fibrous like mature ginger.
Ginger has many uses: it can be used frozen, dried, or used fresh for cooking; pickled, candied, juiced, made into tea, and taken medicinally. Turmeric is also used extensively in cooking and it also has many medicinal uses.
I took the photos below in late October at Granite Springs Farm during a harvest day.