PETERSBURG, Va. — Virginia Cooperative Extension will conduct its Ginger and Turmeric Field Day Thursday, October 24, 2019, at Virginia State University (VSU), Petersburg, Va. The popular annual program will cover both the health benefits of ginger and turmeric, as well as techniques to successfully grow and market it. Participants will also visit VSU’s Randolph Farm, where they will see four new varieties of container and outdoor grown ginger, as well as learn about the harvesting, washing and packing of the crops for market. Additionally, participants will learn about the runaway success story of Richmond’s Hardywood Brewery Gingerbread Stout, which features locally-grown ginger.
Pre-registration is required and costs $20 per person. It includes a boxed lunch.
At the program new VSU research will be announced that confirms immature ginger, or “baby” ginger, contains about twice as many polyphenols and has two to three times more antioxidation activity than the mature ginger found in most grocery stores. “That means if you’re eating ginger for its health benefits,” said Dr. Rafat Siddiqui, associate professor of food sciences at VSU’s Agricultural Research Station, “you may be selling yourself short at the supermarket, which traditionally offers only mature ginger, recognizable by its light brown color.”
Unfortunately for consumers though, 100 percent of the ginger found at the supermarket is imported, largely from Southeast Asia on container ships. From the time it’s packed until it makes its way into our kitchens is usually months. “Baby ginger is more perishable than its older counterpart, which naturally features a papery skin to lock in moisture and freshness,” said Dr. Reza Rafie, horticulture Extension specialist at VSU. “The immature ginger just couldn’t make the voyage.”
So, what’s a health-conscious, ginger-lover to do? Rafie and others at the field day will present solutions that not only hold benefits for consumers, but also for U.S. small-scale farmers, as well.
Since it takes less time to grow and harvest baby ginger (seven to eight months, Rafie explained, compared to commercial ginger, which matures in the ground for about 10-11 months), the tropical plant can grow in regions with shorter growing seasons than Southeast Asia. Rafie explained he and many others have had great success growing baby ginger in pots and in raised beds up and down the East Coast.
“But it’s a crop that must be sold close to home and quickly,” he added. “It’s perfect for those small-scale farmers who sell direct to consumers at farmers markets or through community supported agriculture (CSA) programs or to chefs, who prefer it for its more delicate taste and the fact it doesn’t need to be peeled.”
Presenters at the field day will also discuss the potential profitability of growing baby ginger. Immature ginger is selling this fall for about $5 to $10 a pound, depending on the market, remarked Rafie. Compared with traditional small-scale farming crops like tomatoes or sweet potatoes, which were selling this summer at a Richmond, Va farmers market for $2 and $1.50* respectively, baby ginger can offer farmers the opportunity for greater profits per production area.
He explained that production results at VSU have shown that each ginger plant has the potential of producing three to eight pounds of marketable baby ginger, depending on production techniques, including fertilizer, irrigation, disease management and mounding.
“The market potential is considerable,” says Rafie.
The program will be held in the L. Douglas Wilder Building Auditorium, Carter G. Woodson Avenue on the VSU campus.
For more information, visit the VSU Cooperative Extension calendar of events at ext.vsu.edu and click on the event. If you desire further information or are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mark Klingman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804-524-5493/TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.
–Michelle Olgers, Virginia State University