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Chat Leftovers: Ginger whenever you want it

It's Wednesday, and you know what that means: Time for another Free Range chat, your weekly opportunity to ask Food section staff members your toughest culinary questions. And our weekly opportunity to try to answer them.

Be there! Join us at the site at 1; or, if you need to spend your day shoveling snow, you can go there early, post a query and check back later to see if we got to it.

This is usually my cue to tell you that I'm about to answer a chat question we couldn't get to the week before. But this time I'm going to answer a question that we DID get to. We just didn't get to all of it.

A chatter from Richmond asked about the best way to store ginger to keep it from going bad before it can be used up, and Gastronomer columnist Andreas Viestad responded: "In sand or soil would be the smartest thing. Water it regularly, and it will grow."

That prompted a follow-up: "Tell me how!"

I could e-mail Andreas for his explanation, but it happens that I have experience with this topic, because last year I kept a big knob of ginger going strong for months. Here's how it worked. I stuck three toothpicks into the ginger about an inch from the bottom, radiating outward, then used the toothpicks to suspend the ginger inside a glass (just like people used to do with avocado pits). I put water in the glass to submerge the bottom of the ginger, set it on the window sill and waited. Within several days, a few slim, hairlike growths emerged, and pretty soon there was a big tangle of roots in the glass. I kept the water level high; attractive bamboo-like stems shot up, and fresh green leaves unfurled. It was pretty!

It was also a reliable supply of ginger, because I was able to slice off pieces and cook with them without killing the plant.

The catch is that you have to start with a fairly large piece, because the ginger root (which isn't really a root, but a rhizome), though it enthusiastically sends out roots and leaves, doesn't really replace the edible part of the plant very fast. So, in my case at least, this technique was useful for keeping ginger fresh (which is what the chatter wanted) but didn't increase the volume much.

You can also do what Andreas advised: Plant it in sand or rich soil. (Bad advice right now, when the ground is rock-hard.) It will sprout roots and leaves, and the rhizome will grow and divide, giving you a nice harvest in the fall. But you really can't keep digging it up just to lop off an inch for your vinaigrette. So for my money, the toothpick method is the way to go.

-- Jane Touzalin

By Jane Touzalin  |  February 3, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Chat Leftovers  | Tags: Chat Leftovers, Free Range, Jane Touzalin, ginger  
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I'm not sure what it does to the nutrient value, but I freeze it. It's surprisingly easy to peel and cut when frozen. It cooks just as easily. The bonus? Freezing seems to enhance the flavor.

Posted by: jyllelardaro | February 3, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

So cool! I have to try it. This might help with my problem of accidently killing house plants unless they're edible. ;-)

Posted by: GirlScoutMom | February 3, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I just store ginger in a zip-lock bag in the fridge's veggie bin. I've never had it go bad.

Posted by: CafeBeouf | February 3, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

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