Cultivating ginger in the northeastern United States is a challenge. The tropical rhizome likes temperatures warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit and is more at home in South China, India, and Hawaii. North of Arizona and South Florida, planting ginger outdoors is a gamble.
That doesn’t mean that creative local agriculturalists aren't trying. The distinctive dance of ginger on your tastebuds is only part of the story. Ginger also has a long medicinal history: For thousands of years it's been used to relieve nausea, pain, and inflammation. And the sweet heat it adds to a wide variety of food and drink—everything from biscuits to beer, from a soothing tea to curry—is beloved by discerning cooks, bakers, and bartenders.
With the shorter growing season here in the Hudson Valley, only a few daring local farmers have attempted ginger. When it is grown successfully, it needs to be harvested young, and the delicate pink baby ginger hardly resembles the older, brown variety you’ll find in the produce aisle and has a sweeter, milder flavor.
Local Ginger FarmersAt Conuco Farm in New Paltz, farmer Hector Tejada has succeeded in growing ginger in the field for the past three years. In season, he brings it down to the Fort Greene Park Greenmarket in Brooklyn and to the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan.
At Et Cetera Farm in Ghent, Maitri Farm in Amenia, and Long Season Farm in Kerhonkson, ginger has been grown successfully in high tunnels, which extend the growing season to give the tropical root more of a chance. And as more local growers diversify, anything that has been proven to be possible is likely to become more widespread. If you’re looking for fresh, local, organic ginger next growing seasons, those are the places to check.
But why not try growing your own indoors? Too finicky for the Northeastern winter, Zingiber officinale is a happy and attractive houseplant when properly germinated in a small, warm container, them well watered and nourished. A chunk of organic ginger from the supermarket (choose one with visible bud nodules) can be nurtured into an ongoing supply of delicious baby ginger year round.
Other Local Ginger FixesMeanwhile, if you must have a ginger fix right now, here are local artisans who can provide you with that special snap:
ImmuneSchein Ginger Elixirs are crafted in West Hurley and can be purchased at the shop and tasting room there, online, or in a wide range of local grocery and specialty food stores. There are a range of healthy flavors of elixir and loose leaf tea, along with ghee and ginger lemon ganache chocolates. When possible, every ingredient is local, and any environmental cost of importing organic ginger is mitigated by meticulous composting practices and a facility that’s 90% solar- and wind-powered.
The Hudson Standard makes a ginger bitters with a wormwood and gentian root base, great for cocktails and for soups, that has been described as “a tour de force” by The Field Guide to Bitters and Amari.