By Paula Dunn
Forget robins. There are two even more reliable signs that spring has arrived — Gatewood’s is open again and selling pansies, early vegetable plants and other items for the garden, and the Herb Society of Central Indiana is taking registrations for their annual Spring Symposium.
The theme of this year’s HSCI Symposium is “Spice It Up With Ginger” to highlight the many uses of 2023’s Herb of the Year.
When I learned ginger was this year’s selection, I was a little surprised. I’ve always considered ginger a spice rather than an herb. Apparently, it IS a spice, but you’ll find it listed as an herb as well.
Although it’s not leafy like most herbs (it’s the root or rhizome of the tropical plant, “Zingiber officinale,”) ginger does meet the International Herb Association’s requirement for being honored as Herb of the Year — it’s considered outstanding in at least two of three categories: medicinal, culinary or decorative.
Medicinally, it’s been used for centuries to improve digestion and to quell nausea. It’s also thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
I shouldn’t have to point out ginger’s culinary uses. Fresh ginger is a staple of Asian cooking, while dried ginger is essential in baked goods like gingerbread, gingersnaps and pumpkin pie. Then there’s ginger beer, ginger ale, candied ginger, ginger salad dressing, pickled ginger . . . The list goes on and on.
(By the way, in case you’re wondering, wild ginger, that heart-shaped ground cover found in Indiana’s woodlands, is actually “Asarum canadense” and no relation to the ginger in your spice rack. Wild ginger gets its name from the fact early settlers found the taste and smell of the plant’s roots similar to commercial ginger.)
Just to get you in a ginger mood, here’s a recipe Master Gardener and HSCI member Jeanette Daniels likes. (Jeanette will be one of the speakers at the Symposium.)
8 small carrots (or equivalent carrot sticks)
1 1/2 T. butter (or margarine)
1/4 t. ground ginger
1 T. honey (or sugar)
Boil carrots in a small amount of water. When almost tender, drain well. (The liquid can be reserved for soup.)
Heat the last three ingredients in a heavy skillet. Add carrots and stir carefully to coat. Cook over low heat until glazed, turning frequently. Serves 4.
You can learn all about ginger at the HSCI Symposium, which will be held Saturday, April 29 in the Hamilton County Fairgrounds Exhibition Hall from 9:00 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.
In addition to Jeanette, who will present “Sody Pop: Fermenting with Ginger Bug,” the Symposium’s speakers include Dr. Kathleen Warfel Hull, head of the Medicinal Plant Garden at the Indiana Medical History Museum, who will discuss “2,500 Years of Relief: The Gift of Medicinal Ginger;” Liz Giménez, Certified Chef de Cuisine and a Culinary Arts Instructor at Ivy Tech, who will speak on “Ginger in the Cuisines of the World;” and author and herbal educator Susan Betz who is scheduled for two presentations: “Ginger Zingiber for Use and Delight” and “Herbal Houseplants.”
Yoga instructor Elle Huger Laker will also demonstrate “Yoga for Gardeners.”
As always, there will be a silent auction, and vendors will be on hand to sell herbal crafts, books and live plants.
The cost for the Symposium is $70 ($60 if you’re an HSCI member.) Breakfast snacks and a lunch catered by Juniper Spoon are included in that fee. The deadline for registration is April 15 and it can be done either online or by mail.
For more information, or to register, visit the HSCI website, https://sites.google.com/view/herb-society-of-central-indian/symposium-2023