Myoga ginger, aka Japanese ginger, is a delicacy not many have had the chance to try. The problem is they are notoriously difficult to source locally and are only available seasonally.
So here’s a way you can start cultivating them yourselves in your home garden:
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Table of contents
1. Obtain Bareroot Rhizomes/Roots of Myoga Ginger for Planting
Myoga ginger’s flowers are actually sterile, and therefore do not seed. Information on its true seed origins, i.e., original plant, is actually unknown. At least, based on the scientific literature I read. But it has been successfully propagated all these years by dividing its rhizomes, i.e., thick and long rootstock.
So your best chances of obtaining these rootstocks are the following:
- Look up online nurseries that can ship you bareroot rhizomes of the plant. This is your best option. They’re usually more affordable and accommodating, especially when you have difficulty establishing your myoga ginger. I highly recommend giving Edible Acres a visit. They have a helpful, informative page about myoga ginger based on their experience growing them.
- Visit your local, frequented garden nursery and ask if they sell myoga ginger roots. If you’re lucky, they might even have the plant. If they do, ensure that it wasn’t sprayed with any chemicals. Chances are they weren’t aware that the plant’s flower buds were edible and thought it was just a regular flowering plant.
- Ask your gardener friends or gardening community if they have any. This way, you can swap plant cuttings and get valuable growing tips too!
For those not familiar with ‘bareroot’ plants, they are essentially soilless and potless plants. These have been dug up during their dormant stage, cleaned, hydrated, and stored in a cold area before delivery. They typically arrive covered in a moist protective layering to keep the roots wet throughout the journey.
Bareroot plants are time-sensitive and need to be planted as soon as you get them. Here are a few things you generally need to do before planting them:
- Inspect your bareroot plant. The roots should be healthy white and slightly wet with an earthy smell. There shouldn’t be signs of mold or mildew on the plant at all. Don’t worry if it has a few damaged or dried-out roots or foliage. As long as the majority of the plant still looks alright, then it’s okay.
- Immediately soak your bareroot plant in water to hydrate it. It will need a bit of pick-me-up after its long travel.
- Trim off any damaged, dried, or rotting roots if they came as rhizomes only. If it came as a whole plant, get rid of any broken foliage or stems too. Note: Do not trim the healthy roots at all. You want to give this plant a chance to take root, so cutting off the remaining intact roots will only lessen its chance of survival.
Afterward, you can leave the bareroot plant to hydrate while quickly preparing the pot or ground where you will be planting it. Typically, you shouldn’t leave your bareroot plant to soak for more than a day. So it is way better to get it into the ground within hours of receiving it.
2. Plant Myoga Ginger in Well-Draining Soil Under Partial Sun
Myoga ginger thrives in a setting with partial sun, so make sure not to place it under the full sun. Too much light will cause the leaves to scorch and eventually damage the plant. An example of a perfect place to plant it is underneath a tree canopy.
As for the soil, ensure that it is well-draining and slightly acidic with a pH of about 5.5-6.0. You can use a soil pH kit (Amazon link) to check yours if you don’t already know it.
You can try to replicate this study‘s potting soil mixture of 10% peat, 20% coarse sand, 70% pine bark. It works well for the myoga ginger plants they cultivated as an experiment. They also added some slow-release fertilizers, dolomite lime, iron sulfate, and a percentage of trace minerals. These additions were meant to boost and aid in the plant’s growth. Obviously, you don’t have to follow this exact formula. As long as your soil is loose and well-draining like loamy soil, you’re good to go.
Once you have your soil and partially sunny location ready, here’s how to plant your bareroot myoga ginger rhizomes:
- Dig a hole in the ground about 4-5 inches deep and 7-8 inches wide. Feel free to adjust this according to the size of your myoga ginger’s rhizomes are. They are more likely to be lengthy horizontally, so take that into account. If you’re planting in a pot or container, make sure it is wide enough to accommodate the rhizomes.
- Look at your rhizome/root and find the disc-shaped end. This is where the stem will grow from, so you need to face this side up when you plant it.
- Place the rhizome/root in the ground or in your pot. Ensure to spread the long roots as much as you can gently. Don’t force it downwards if it’s not aligned vertically.
- Cover the root entirely with soil.
- Add coarse organic mulch like pine bark or wood chips over the top of the soil. This is essential to help retain moisture around the rhizomes/roots as it grows.
- Water lightly around the plant to settle the soil. But if the soil and mulch feel damp to the touch, hold off on watering to the next day.
An important note on hardiness zones: Myoga ginger grows well in zones 7-10. However, there are some cases where it can grow in zones 5 & 6.
For colder climates, it’s best to plant your myoga ginger in a low tunnel (Amazon link) or greenhouse to keep it away from the frost. They may be cold-tolerant, but they are not frost-tolerant at all. For warmer climates, they can still technically grow. However, the higher temperature will most likely give you a smaller yield or none at all. Try to keep them in a shaded environment with cooler temperatures for the best growth if possible.
3. Water the Myoga Ginger Daily After It Has Been Planted
For the first few weeks of planting, ensure to water the plant daily. Ensure to feel the soil first before watering. Do the knuckle test every time until you can gauge how often you should be watering the plant. This is even more important if you’ve planted the myoga ginger in pots or containers. Just be careful not to overwater it. Otherwise, you risk drowning the plant, causing root rot, and ultimately killing off the plant.
So the next question you probably have is how do you take care of your Japanese ginger from here on out? As a general rule, water myoga/Japanese ginger every other day and keep it away from frost and full sun. These perennial plants are very hardy and thrive on neglect. Let it grow on its own, and it will thank you for it.
There’s not even much maintenance to be done at all after it has been established. These plants are pretty resistant to pests and diseases too, so that’s one less thing to worry about. Still, it doesn’t hurt to give the plant a thorough check once in a while. Come mid-summer to late fall, you should start to see the flower bulbs popping up from the ground.
4. Harvest the Myoga Ginger Before It Blooms or Turns Green
Despite the plant being part of the ginger family, you are not harvesting it for its roots. It’s the flower bulbs you want; these can be found growing at the stem’s base. They usually poke through the mulch, but sometimes they’re so small that they’re hidden right beneath it.
But then, when should I harvest myoga exactly? Myoga ginger is typically harvested in May. Look for unopened pinkish-purple flower bulbs that have grown at the plant’s base and collect them. Do not wait for them to bloom or turn green, as these are no longer edible.
Next, how do you harvest myoga ginger? Here’s how:
- Using your hands, push away the mulch and soil around the plant’s base lightly. Usually, the flower bulbs will grow and poke themselves out of the mulch, but it’s better to be thorough.
- Look for a pinkish-purple bulb that is still closed. These ones are ready to harvest. If it has bloomed or turned green, leave them alone since those are not edible.
- Using a small knife, release the flower bulbs from the bottom of the stem.
- Once you’re done foraging, brush back the soil and mulch around the plant. Myoga ginger plants will continue producing flower bulbs from May to October so keep checking your plant for more harvest.
Once November rolls around, the plants will die and shrivel up for the incoming cold weather. Don’t worry! The roots are still there under the soil and will go dormant throughout the winter. The dead foliage and stem on top of the soil act as a natural mulch to protect it. Honestly, you barely have to do anything else after your initial planting! Now you can sit back, relax, and watch it grow back on its own year after year during late spring.