A Cold-Hardy Ginger to Grow on Cape Cod
Dave Scandurra and Marina Matos are landscapers. But they’re not interested in planting your average Cape Cod garden of hydrangeas and beach grass. Instead, they work with people who want to fill their yards with food. Right now Dave’s excited about something called mioga ginger.
“ It’s blowing our minds! This is actually a true ginger, the Zingiber genus, which is the same genus as a common ginger that’s found in the grocery stores, but this one is Zingiber mioga so it’s a Japanese ginger that’s super hardy.”
Common ginger won’t grow here. It’s adapted to hardiness zones 9 through 12—think south of Florida—and while there are farmers on the Cape growing common ginger in greenhouses, the plant doesn’t survive outside. Mioga ginger is different.
“This overwintered for us last year and came back full steam and it looks like this tropical plant in the middle of our shade garden here. So that’s pretty cool for an edible perennial ginger to do so well in pretty much full shade,” Dave said.
Mioga is native to wooded areas of Japan and the Korean peninsula. Seed catalogs say it’s hardy down to 3 degrees Farenheight—which puts our area at the northern edge of its range. Unlike with common ginger, you don’t pick the roots of mioga ginger. Instead, you pick flower shoots that it sends up in late summer and fall. They look almost like an elongated shallot with delicate yellow petals coming out of the top.
It can also flower at the base. It creates beautiful orchid-like flowers, and the flowers are edible.
It’s like a mild ginger, with a little zing. They’re supposed to be more like a galangal ginger, or the ginger that’s used in curry. It has a citrusy, almost piney flavor. This mioga ginger flower is incredibly refreshing, with a crunchy, juicey texture.
Dave heard about this type of ginger on Facebook.
“Actually this guy who’s the most well known for all this stuff, Eric Tonesmeyer, who’s a perennial vegetable specialist. He posted about it, “Oh, there’s some perennial ginger and this nursery has it.” I checked and it was out of stock I kept checking back in and finally they had it in stock. It’s a mail order nursery and I ordered even more this year because I was so impressed by the fact that it came back so strong and it spread so much. We’re stoked about this one.”
Sources online say grated Mioga ginger flowers makes a tasty garnish for miso soup or roasted eggplant. Other people have tried pickling the flower buds with sugar and rice wine vinegar, or slicing them in half to be battered and fried like vegetable tempura. Dave says, he’s just excited that something so tasty can grow in such unexpected spots.
“A lot of people have a lot of shade, especially on Cape Cod, not a lot of people have big open sunny fields to plant food so we’re trying to figure out ways we can get them in little areas of the landscape that otherwise are not thought of as food producing areas.”
It’s not too late in the season to plant mioga ginger if you can get your hands on some.
Here’s a link to the nursery that sells the mioga ginger. Dave says it's not too late to plant, but to do so soon, and to be sure to heavily mulch the plants—think 6-12 inches of leaves or straw. This will protect them from any early frosts. If you wait til the spring, late April or May are also good times to plant.
This piece first aired in October, 2019.