Ginger is a perennial plant that is cultivated as an annual crop in South Africa. It is the rhizome of the plant from the family Zingiberaceae. Other members of this plant family are cardamom and turmeric. After a growing period of 8 to 9 months, the above-ground growth dies off (June/July). If the underground creeping stems (rhizomes) are not harvested, they start growing again as soon as soil temperature increases (October/November).
Scientific name: Zingiber officinale
Common name: Ginger (English); Gemmer (Afrikaans)
ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION
Ginger has been grown in tropical Asia since ancient times. The ancient use of ginger as a flavouring pre-dates historical records. Because ginger is not found in the wild, its origins are uncertain. It is likely to have originated from India as ginger plants there show the most biological variability.
Potted ginger plants were carried on local vessels travelling the maritime trade routes of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea in the 5th century AD and probably before. The plants would have rapidly spread too many other countries along the way.
In the 16th century ginger was introduced to East Africa and the Caribbean. It is now cultivated throughout the humid tropics.