Japanese ginger perennial plant offers a lot: it's an herb, a flowering plant, a perennial tropical plant, an evergreen and an ornamental species. In Japan, it is field cultivated during summer months for its edible flowers, which are harvested, then blanched and used in salads. During winter months, the production of flower buds does not slow down. It is simply moved to the confines of heated greenhouses.
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Commonly known as variegated Japanese ginger and mioga ginger, this plant is a member of the botanical family Zingiberaceae; its scientific name is Zingiber mioga. Its leaves are broad, pointed, deep green and variegated with creamy white. Unlike most plants, the Japanese ginger's flower buds form underground, and its creamy white, shell-shaped flowers emerge at ground level, at the base of the plant.
Japanese ginger is a rhizome, which means it has a horizontal, underground plant system that lets it propagate asexually. The rhizome grows segments and tuberlike roots. Growers break off segments of a rhizome and plant them to propagate the plant. The ginger root you find in your grocery store's produce aisle is actually a rhizome.
Japanese ginger is photoperiodic, meaning it needs specific amounts of daylight and night darkness to bloom. It does best in shade or partially shady areas with moist, well-drained soil. Typically, it reaches heights of 18 to 36 inches. Some species attain heights of 5 to 8 feet, depending upon growing conditions. In frost-free zones, Japanese ginger is an evergreen. If growing conditions are too sunny and hot, the plant may go dormant.
The leaves, flowers and rhizomes all have a spicy fragrance when brushed against. Only the leaves of Japanese ginger are inedible. You can blanch and use the flowers in salads like the Japanese do. And you can use the rhizome in cooking and baking, just as you would the ginger root you purchase fresh at a grocery store.
Uses and Sources
The shade-loving Japanese ginger plant is very attractive in borders or as a single specimen in a garden. It is well suited for use around ponds. In addition to its culinary uses, Japanese ginger has a place in the florist market. Its leaves are often used in bouquets and work especially well with mixes of tropical flowers. While native to Japan and a product of Japan, most of the commercial supply of Japanese ginger now comes from Jamaica.
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