The Ultimate Guide to Ginger

In this blog, we’ll discuss the characteristics of ginger (both the fruit and the plant), its main types, its properties, history, main exporters and importers, how it is cultivated, and some products made from this food. Don’t miss it!  

What is ginger and what are its characteristics?   

Scientific nameZingiber officinale
Common nameGinger
Place of originChina, Southeastern Asia, and India
HabitatFertile, moist, slightly acidic soils and tropical climates.
DistributionAsia, Europe, Africa, and South America (see section on top ginger exporters in the world for more information).

Characteristics of ginger 

The common name of the plant and its fruit is the same (ginger). It belongs to the genus Zingiberaceae.

This plant is formed by some elongated green stems that can reach 90 cm high with a series of thin leaves of a maximum thickness of 3 cm, green color that measures 20 centimeters in length.

Its plant has very beautiful flowers that can be deep red or white, (depending on the variety of ginger) that grow in spikes and clusters.

However, ginger is not consumed for its stem, leaves, or flower, but for its root, which is called a rhizome. The rhizome is subterranean and is highly demanded for its spicy flavor and aroma. It is rather wide for a root and its exterior is beige and has a rather thin shell, while its interior has a pale yellow to green tone and a smooth texture.

Types of ginger 

Broadly speaking, there are 10 types or varieties of ginger:

  1. Yellow ginger
  2. White ginger
  3. Spring ginger
  4. Culinary ginger
  5. Hawaiian blue ginger
  6. Peacock Ginger
  7. Ginger shampoo
  8. Ginger shell
  9. Ginger Lily
  10. Japanese ginger

Today we’ll focus on the first five types since they are the main ones.

Yellow ginger 

Known as cream garland lily, the yellow ginger is a perennial flowering plant native to the Himalayas, northern Vietnam, and Sichuan and cultivated in other regions such as Hawaii. A yellow ginger plant has a short stem with leaves that grow in a crested shape, while its roots or rhizomes have a small, thick silhouette.

It has a strong bitter taste and a musky odor that comes from the rhizome. It can be used as an analgesic for muscle pain, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and for many more health benefits. You can also make ginger tea with this variety to treat stomach pain.

White ginger 

Known as coronarium, white ginger is a variety that can be seen in various regions of Hawaii. This hardy variety of ginger can grow up to 8 feet tall. In some areas, it is also called butterfly flower or ginger lily.

Besides being used as a spice, white ginger is also used in the medicinal field as it can treat several diseases, such as sore throat and tonsillitis. Simply extract the juice from the rhizome and gargle with it. You can also use it in treating rheumatism.

Spring ginger 

This is basically the younger version of mature ginger. Spring ginger has a hand shape similar to mature ginger, but its rhizome is harder and more fibrous. These rhizomes can also be plump and juicy with a pinkish blush. You can use this ginger in strong-smelling recipes as it may help neutralize or eliminate these unpleasant fragrances. You can also boil it and use the juice that comes out of it in other recipes such as panna cotta or ginger ale.

Culinary ginger 

It belongs to the large group of ginger that is native to the shady and humid regions of Southeast Asia. You can use this ginger as a garnish by grating the peeled roots. You can also use it to flavor your preserves or beverages like tea. Incorporate it into your crackers or foods like quick bread to give them a touch of sweet and savory flavor.

Hawaiian blue ginger 

A lesser-known type of ginger, Hawaiian blue ginger or blue ginger is an edible ginger variety with bluish-colored rhizomes. It resembles common gingers when its roots have not yet matured. Don’t hesitate to use this ginger because it is a rich source of iron, sodium, and vitamins A and C. You can also use it for its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory content.

Properties and benefits of ginger 

Nutritional profile of ginger 

Take a look at the nutritional table of ginger per 100g, taken from Vegaffinity.

CompositionQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
MineralsQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
VitaminsQuantity (gr)CDR(%)
Vitamin A0.011%
Vitamin B100%
Vitamin B20.215.4%
Vitamin B39.60.1%
Vitamin B1200%
Vitamin C0.70.8%

5 properties of ginger that you should take advantage of 

Ideal for treating intestinal discomfort 

Particularly useful in the digestive system, ginger increases saliva and other digestive fluids, which helps relieve indigestion and associated problems such as bloating and flatulence. Considered an effective carminative (i.e., in scientific jargon, a substance that promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance that relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract), ginger is regarded by many as one of nature’s best antidotes for general digestive discomfort.

It calms nausea 

Old wives’ tale may be right: ginger does help when you’re trying to relieve an upset stomach, especially during pregnancy. It can work by dissolving and eliminating gas built up in your intestines. It may also help calm motion sickness or nausea caused by chemotherapy.

It regulates temperature and improves circulation 

Feeling cold or just can’t get the blood flowing to warm your extremities? Studies at Cornell University revealed that ginger’s active ingredients, called ‘gingerols’, help prevent abnormal blood clotting, which helps blood flow freely and improves circulation. This also explains why ginger has been used in Oriental medicine as a libido stimulant for centuries.

Antioxidant par excellence 

Ginger is also a powerful antioxidant and its anti-inflammatory properties have been proven to help relieve joint pain, muscle pain and migraines, and if you have a bit of a cold, you’ll be pleased to know that ginger can relieve the aches and pains related to this illness. A nightly ginger tonic with a little lemon and honey will soothe a sore throat, and relieve colds and flu.

It treats inflammations 

Ginger is an anti-inflammatory, which means it reduces swelling. That can be especially helpful in treating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. You can get relief from pain and swelling by either taking ginger orally or by using a ginger compress or patch on the skin.

History and origin of ginger 

The reported history of ginger dates back about 5,000 years. Its place of origin is debated, but its medicinal and spiritual uses were first documented in Southeast Asia, India, and China. Like many other spices, ginger was once an expensive delicacy – in the 14th century, a pound of ginger was as expensive as a sheep! By the mid-16th century, Europe was receiving more than 2,000 tons of dried ginger a year from the East Indies.

In the Middle Ages, it was used to ward off the plague and for a time it was so popular that it was placed on the table like salt and pepper.

In 19th century Britain, it was sprinkled on beer (this gave rise to ginger ale) and was used to “feaguing” horses, which is a technique of increasing a horse’s liveliness by inserting an irritant, such as a piece of peeled raw ginger into the anus to make them jump more energetically around the ring.

Global industry of ginger

Meet the top exporters and importers of ginger in the world. 

Top exporters of ginger in the world  

In the following chart, you’ll see the top 10 countries that exported the most ginger by 2020 according to FAO.

Below, you can find the percentage of these figures.

On the other hand, FAO also provides information on which countries have the highest monetary volume in exports, specifically in U.S. dollars in 2020. Let’s see what they are:

Below, find the percentage of these figures.

Top ginger importers in the world 

In 2020, $1.47MM dollars worth of ginger was imported around the world. Next, you can see the top ginger importers according to the FAO for this year:

Following, you’ll find the percentage of these figures.

How is ginger cultivated?   

A number of requirements must be met in order to grow this plant. Let’s see what they are:


Ginger plants require slightly acidic soils to grow healthily and produce rhizomes. Make sure the pH of the soil is between 5.5 and 6.5. If the soil pH is too high, alkaline or conversely, too low or acidic, it will interfere with ginger growth.

Clean soil is also important for healthy ginger. It is best to opt for soil that is clean and free of pests, pathogenic fungi and parasites, such as galls nematodes. Ginger prefers rich, fertile soils. Organic-rich soil provides ginger with the nutrients it needs to produce healthy and tasty rhizomes, without the need for fertilizers.

Moist, well-drained soil is optimal for ginger plants. The soil mix must maintain moisture; however, ginger plants should not be exposed to overly saturated soils. The best soils for drainage and moisture retention include sandy or clayey mixtures.


Ginger is a tropical plant that loves heat (22-25°C or 71-77°F) and constant humidity; it cannot tolerate temperatures below -10°C or 14°F.

Method of ginger planting 

Planting cuttings 

For growing ginger, one only needs to purchase a pulpy rhizome from a supermarket or health food store. Plant the rhizome in a large container that has been filled with plenty of potting soil made from compost. Be sure to place the rhizome on top of the soil mixture in a way that the top is slightly off the ground.

Only a few leaves will grow from a ginger rhizome, reaching two to three feet in height. A 40 cm pot will easily hold three to four average rhizomes.

Ginger is propagated by rhizome portions known as seed rhizomes. Carefully preserved, the seed rhizomes are cut into small pieces 2.5 to 5.0 cm long, weighing 20 to 25 g each, with one or two buds.  The seed rate varies from region to region and according to the cultivation method adopted. The rhizome seed pieces are placed and leveled in shallow pits prepared with a hand hoe and covered with well-decomposed farmyard manure and a thin layer of soil.


Ideally, ginger is planted outdoors in late spring or early summer, but it can also be done indoors in late winter or early spring.  As already mentioned, this tropical plant should not be left outside during cold seasons, so once autumn begins, potted ginger should be brought home and placed somewhere where sunlight can reach it.


At planting time, apply well-decomposed cattle manure or compost of 25 to 30 tons per hectare, either by placing it on the beds (which we will discuss below) before planting or applying it to the pits at the time of planting.


To prevent the plant from rotting, it must not be overwatered before it has taken root. During this period, it should be watered only when the soil surface is dry. Once the stems are fully developed they can be watered more frequently, up to twice a week.

The critical stages for watering are at germination, rhizome initiation, and rhizome development stages. Sprinkler and drip systems can also be employed for better water use efficiency and higher yields.


Soil needs to be plowed 4 to 5 times or dug thoroughly with early summer rains to get the soil well-tilled.


It is necessary to create beds for this crop to protect it from heavy rains or temperatures lower than what it can withstand. For this reason, beds about 1 m wide, 30 cm high, and long are prepared with an intermediate space of 50 cm between each bed. In areas prone to rhizome rot and nematode infestations, it is recommended that the beds be shaded for 40 days with transparent polyethylene sheets.

Ginger is propagated by portions of rhizomes known as seed rhizomes. The carefully preserved seed rhizomes are cut into small pieces of 2.5 to 5.0 cm.


This method consists of covering the seedbeds with green leaves or organic debris; essential to prevent splashing and erosion of the soil due to heavy rains. Through this practice, you also add organic matter to the soil, control the appearance of weeds and conserve moisture during the last part of the growing season.

The first mulching is done by planting green leaves for every 10 to 12 tons per hectare. Mulching with green leaves should be repeated every 7.5 tons per hectare at 45 and 90 days after sowing, fertilizer application, and earthing up.


Ginger can also be grown alongside coconut, brown areca nut and orange. However, intercropping with tomato, potato, chili, eggplant and peanut crops should be avoided, as these plants are hosts to the wilt-causing organism Ralstonia solanacearum.

Harvesting ginger 

About four to five months in, the small pieces of rhizomes can begin to be harvested from the plant. It is done by carefully breaking off a few pieces on the sides of the rhizome. It is to be noted that the flavor of young ginger is never as strong as mature ginger. The best time to harvest the entire rhizome cluster is eight to ten months after planting. So if ginger was planted in April, it will be ready right before Christmas.

Post-harvesting ginger 

Processing ginger to produce dried ginger is basically done in two stages: peeling the ginger rhizomes to remove the outer skin and drying in the sun to a safe moisture level.


Fully mature rhizomes are peeled by scraping the outer skin with pointed bamboo splinters to speed up the drying process. It is best to avoid deep scraping with knives to avoid damaging the oil-containing cells that are present just below the outer layer. Excessive peeling will cause the essential oil content of the dried product to be reduced. The peeled rhizomes are washed before drying. Dried ginger obtained in this way is appreciated for its aroma and flavor.


Ginger is usually dried in a single layer under the sun in an open courtyard, taking 8 to 10 days to dry completely.

Polishing, cleaning and grading 

Dry ginger is polished to remove the dry skin and wrinkles formed on the surface during the drying process. It is usually done by rubbing against a hard surface. The cleaning of dried ginger is done manually to remove foreign parts and slightly protruding pieces. Once the ginger is cleaned, it is manually sorted according to rhizome size, color and shape.


Dried ginger, when packed in jute bags, is very susceptible to insect infestation such as tobacco beetle. The completely dried rhizomes can be stored in airtight containers, such as high-density polyethylene or similar packaging materials.

Uses and products made from ginger 

Ginger is usually eaten as an accompaniment to some beverages, which we will describe in this section.  It is eaten fresh or processed. Certain products made from ginger have also been launched on the market, such as the ones we’ll show you below.

Ginger oil 

Ginger oil is extracted from ginger rhizome after a distillation process. Like other essential oils, it is highly concentrated. When used topically, Ginger essential oil relieves redness, eliminates bacteria, diminishes signs of skin damage and aging, and restores color and radiance to a dull complexion.

Used on the hair, Ginger Essential Oil contributes to scalp health and cleansing, relieves dryness and itching, and enhances healthy hair growth by stimulating and improving scalp blood circulation.

Ginger beer 

Ginger beer is a non-alcoholic beverage with a strong, spicy and aromatic flavor. It is made by mixing ginger, water and sugar and fermenting it with yeast. It is then carbonated and bottled. You can drink ginger beer as a soft drink, use it to make a sparkling non-alcoholic cocktail, or enjoy it in a classic Moscow Mule. However, you may want to omit the classic copper mug in this cocktail.

Herbal tea with ginger 

Herbal tea with ginger is effective in combating excess weight. The composition of the tea contains natural ingredients such as chlorogenic acid, which improves metabolism and promotes the breakdown of fat. It also contains oregano herb, mint herb, lemon balm herb, ground green coffee, strawberry leaf and dried ground ginger root.

Ginger ale 

Ginger ale is a sweetened carbonated beverage whose predominant flavor and pleasant warmth are derived primarily from the subway stem, or rhizome, of ginger. Although originally carbonated by fermentation, modern ginger ales are artificially saturated with carbon dioxide gas.

Other flavoring elements are often added, e.g., spices, citrus essences, fruit juices, foam-producing substances and, occasionally, spicy foods, such as capsicum.

ginger beer
Photo by form PxHere

Ginger juice 

Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities, which can offer a variety of health benefits:

  • Ease digestion
  • Soothe motion sickness or nausea
  • Prevent colds and illnesses, relieves symptoms such as congestion
  • Can soothe headaches or joint pain.
  • Freshen breath

Here is a list of other products that are also made from ginger:

  • Ginger cookies
  • Infusions
  • Green coffee with ginger
  • Capsules
  • Extracts
  • Chocolates with ginger
  • Candies
  • Ginger wines
  • Syrups
  • Ginger gel
  • Ginger shampoo
  • Ginger cream
  • Dried ginger
  • Pickled ginger
  • Ginger powder
  • Cakes like gingerbread houses


Ginger is a food that you can use to make delicious preparations that at the same time are healthy. For this reason, it is one of the most important plants in the world. Being so, you should feel grateful if you have ginger at home, and if it is not the case, you are invited to consume it daily so you can enjoy all its benefits.


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