GINGER. It is one of those tastes of Christmas, whether it be confectionery or, indeed, wine — maybe mixed with a Scotch or two.
It is a true winter warmer, no matter how you take it.
Usually in this country, this tropical delight can be grown only in a pot in a warm place but the owner of Adgestone Vineyard has managed to grow it outside, which is unusual.
Russ Broughton’s collection of outdoor ginger — showing just why Adgestone was chosen as a successful site for a vineyard — flourished this year and was also featured on TV’s Countryfile.
Russ said: "I was told categorically you can’t grow ginger in the UK outside a polytunnel. Being an engineer, I ignored the advice until I could prove it to myself it doesn’t grow.
"In truth, all I did was buy 20kg of fresh root ginger from food wholesalers, snapped them into pieces and pushed them in the ground.
"Some grew, some didn’t. I’ve learned now it hates the wind, hates drying out, hates being too wet and the leaf tips burn if the sun is too direct.
"Getting those things right meant all plantings now thrive but unlike ginger grown in Asia, it does take two years."
I can attest to the fact — thanks to Russ’s generosity — it makes a lovely sweet ginger wine and he also makes chutney for sale at the vineyard, which is well worth a visit.
It is possible for us too to have a worthwhile stab at growing ginger, although to succeed outdoors it will need a special spot, like Russ’s.
Instead of root ginger, it is much better to opt for stem ginger, which in its fresh form is a beautiful spice.
Here is the difference. When harvested fresh, the same plant 'root’ ginger comes from produces an entirely different crop, 'stem’ ginger, which provides lovely flavour and culinary uses.
Normally known only to us Brits preserved in sugar in jars, in its fresh form, stem ginger is surprisingly still a rare spice on our shores. Essentially, the only way to get your hands on it is to grow it yourself.
Stem ginger is traditionally sliced finely and served as a fresh condiment with fish or chicken dishes in its Asian homeland or added to salads and salsas.
There is a radical taste difference between the root and the stem, the latter almost entirely lacking the fire associated with ginger.
Ginger is easy to propagate from supermarket leftovers and spring is the best time.
Pick the freshest piece you can, ideally with visible 'eyes’. Plant each piece in a pot of well-drained potting mix, such as seed and cutting compost, with the eyes just level with the surface, and water in well.
Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag and place it in a sunny spot indoors at about 20C.
In a few weeks you will start to notice green tips.
Kept in a light, warm room your ginger will make a nice houseplant all year long and start producing harvests after six to eight months.