Yes, it's a "hand" of ginger -- from the supermarket -- that my friend Julia planted in her back yard.
For all the ginger root I've cooked with over the years (and, by the way, we call it a root, though it's really a rhizome), I'd never thought to plant it. Leave it to Julia -- a chef by training, and a gardener by choice -- to think of this.
Buy an unwrinkled ginger rhizome at your local market; if you can find an organic one, that's best, but it's not necessary. Stick the whole thing into your garden, covered by a couple of inches of soil. Whenever you need ginger for a recipe, dig up the root, break off a piece, and replant.
Soon you'll see that your ginger has developed roots, and after that, green shoots (see the top photo) will emerge from the ground. As you can see in the bottom photo, the shoots will get quite tall, and indicate that there's a new knob, or "finger", of ginger forming.
Not only is this great fun, but you will have your choice of using the new ginger "finger" which is quite mild, or part of the original root, which is often more strong in flavor.
Be sure to dig up your root before the ground freezes. Next spring, buy a new "hand" of ginger, and start again!
WEST AFRICAN PEANUT SOUP Adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant. Serves 8.
2 cups chopped onions 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 tsp cayenne, or more to taste 1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger 1 cup chopped peeled carrots 4 cups chopped sweet potatoes 4 cups chicken stock 2 cups V8 juice (or 1-1/2 cups tomato juice plus 1/2 cup water) 1 cup smooth peanut butter 1 Tbsp agave nectar 1/2 cup chopped scallions, chives or flat-leaf parsley
Saute the onions in the oil until just translucent. Stir in the cayenne and fresh ginger. Add the carrots and sauté a few more minutes. Mix in the potatoes and stock or water, bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. With an immersion blender, if you have one, purée the vegetables with the cooking liquid and tomato juice. Return the purée to a soup pot. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Taste the soup. Its sweetness will depend on the sweetness of the carrots and sweet potatoes. If it’s not there naturally, add just a tiny bit of sugar to enhance the other flavors. Reheat the soup gently, using a heat diffuser if needed to prevent scorching. Add more water, stock or tomato juice for a thinner soup. Serve topped with plenty of chopped scallions or chives.
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