Wild Ginger

Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is an interesting plant found in rich, moist, forested areas in deep hollows and drains.  East and north facing lower slopes are its favored habitat.

 

Ginger has a stem (called a rhizome) that grows low along the ground and has pairs of heart shaped leaves sticking up through the leaf litter.  The leaf stems are very hairy.  If you scratch around at the base of the leaves in April and May you will find a brownish purple flower with three petals. If you break off a piece of the rhizome it will have the strong smell like ginger.

 

Early colonists used the roots and rhizome as a ginger substitute.  The rhizome has been used medicinally as an expectorant (helps remove mucous from the respiratory tract), an antiseptic, and a tonic (stimulates muscle tone).  A tea made from the roots was also used to relieve stomach gas.

 

For a wild eating experience, make a candy by boiling the rhizomes until tender and then simmer in a sugar syrup.  Dried roots can be substituted for commercial ginger.   Caution:  never eat anything from the wild unless you can identify it confidently.  Also, eat only small portions in case there is an allergic reaction.  A good book on wild foods is:  A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, by Lee Peterson.

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