Candied Wild Ginger, a Recipe “from Fresh”

Wild Ginger - Asarum Canadense,Ontario

Since I posted my recipe for candied wild Ginger made from dry wild Ginger, I have been itching to make the “from fresh” version.

I had to be patient, waiting till it had finished flowering and seeding itself, it seemed the polite, considerate thing to do. No one likes to be disturbed while procreating. So Friday I went out and spent three hours on my hands and knees harvesting fresh wild Ginger for our recipe. Did I mention I turned 59 last Saturday?!! I know it’s just a number, but allow me a little moaning and groaning. I have earned at least that for being in this body for so long. Harvesting, visiting my old friends was a lovely and of course fragrant experience, but after a winter in front of the computer, blogging, I am paying the price the past couple of days. My body aches, my butt hurts, my legs & lower back feel tender. A sudden, and extended sprint of, down on your knees bent over and reaching using both hands to cut and collect roots with the occasional elbow for support, has left me a little tender and sore days later. Thank God for St. John’s Wort Oil.

I harvested about 5 kg per hour or 15 kg of fresh wild Ginger which after drying would be about 4 Kg. Enough for a couple of good shareable batches of confection and syrup, while building up some stock for the extraction of essential oil. I need about 15 Kg. of dry wild ginger to properly charge my essential oil still and do an efficient extraction of this truly amazing and versatile essential oil. I sometimes feel I couldn’t make perfume or mens products without it.

I must admit the resulting candied recipe from fresh Wild Ginger is a little different. A little more succulent and tender than the same product from dry. They both have the same level of yumminess, taste and fragrance, but the winter version from dried is a tad, well, drier. Chewier. (I may try modifying the recipe a bit and see if I can get it to reconstitute a bit more when cooking.)

Candied Wild Ginger, from dried rhizomes-2013
Candied Wild Ginger, from dried rhizomes-2013

If you have already identified Asarum Canadense, know where to find some, or have a proven patch of Wild Ginger and have made its acquaintance, then you are almost ready to harvest. If you are new to this and have not yet identified Wild Ginger, then be aware there are some challenges, mostly along the lines of look-alikes . Luckily, in our area, none are harmful, and the worst experience you might have is mounting frustration from being misdirected by Colt’s foot, Wild Violets, or young Garlic Mustard. Don’t be surprised if you do not find it the first year of seeking. It took me a few years till I finally was granted an audience.

So, if you have

  • a decent photo,
  • a basic knowledge of where Wild Ginger does and does not grow,
  • and a functioning olfactory member,( nose), then it is only a matter of time before you find Wild Ginger.

Wild Ginger ONLY grows in the woods and forests, often on slopes, NEVER in the open, or on roadsides, stream banks, fields or deserted waste places. Coltsfoot will grow in all these places and will even penetrate somewhat into the woods. Coltsfoot will be your first imposter and will mislead you as long as you let it. They both grow in shaded areas, though Coltsfoot will tolerate sun, they both grow to about 8 inches in height and have 6-12 inch wide heart-shaped leaves. The similarities end there.

Coltsfoot has a scalloped edge to its leaf, a fine fur or fuzz on stalk and underside, has a stalk bearing multiple yellow compound flowers in very early spring before the leaf comes out, ( why it is also called son before father), and has an odd smell. Not a bad smell, but not fragrant or reminiscent of Ginger in the slightest way.

Wild Ginger has a smooth-edged leaf, smooth on top and bottom, has almost a reflective sheen to it, as if it was embedded with tiny glass beads that shimmered a bit but only at the right angle. It unfurls its leaves in the spring before it flowers a dark purple, often downward facing flower which is completely hidden unless one lifts a leaf and exposes it. And of course, Wild Ginger is intensely and unmistakably fragrant!

Wild Ginger-Asarum Canadense, close up - Ontario
Wild Ginger-Asarum Canadense, close up – Ontario

HARVESTING

When you meet a plant for the first time, it is always courteous to greet it, introduce yourself, leave an offering or gift of some sort. Perhaps to state your intent. Many cultures ask permission to harvest. It is at the very least a relationship. What kind, or how rewarding a relationship it becomes often is up to us. I usually find one patch that is separate from the rest and I place an offering. I introduce myself if it’s a new patch that I never been to, or I simply say hello to an old friend and I usually leave something. It doesn’t matter what you give as long as you give something that has meaning to you. It could be some food it could be some tobacco or a symbolic offering. It could be Money or coins, or even something personal like spit or urine that is applied in a reverent and respectful manner. It’s symbolic of giving and taking, balance and harmony, of your intent. As in life in general, we get what we give. Once the introductions and gift exchange is done, I excluded that spot from harvesting.

One of the most important things about harvesting in the wild, or “Wildcrafting“, is keeping the well-being of the plants in mind, harvesting in a way that will be beneficial to the plants as well as to yourself. We don’t want to leave the patch struggling for years to recuperate from the effects of our harvesting or over harvesting.

For this reason I harvest patches that aren’t too noticeable, will grow in quickly over the course of two or three years and I also try to collect the older roots, the “Nexus” where there is a heavier concentration of older roots and old-growth. This way I collect from a richer area, spend less time harvesting, and facilitate the vigorous growth of younger shoots that will fill in the area quickly. I should point out here, since there have been questions about which part of the plant is used, that I remove all the leaves when I am harvesting, pinching them off with my thumbnail or harvesting tool. The rootlets are not the fragrant or useable part, but since there is so much soil clinging to them, I leave them on till I can wash out all the soil with water. It is the rhizome that is of interest to us.

As I mentioned in my earlier post on wild Ginger I enjoy harvesting with bone tools. I find that using metal for harvesting plants just doesn’t feel right. With my background of sculptor and craftsman, specializing in natural materials, I make my own simple bone harvesting tools. If anyone is interested I can probably provide bone “blanks” to carve or shape your own tools, or a ready to use bone or antler harvesting tool. I should have them displayed in my web-shop by July.

There is an abundance of information available on traditions and methods of harvesting plants in the wild from cultures all over the world. I could and should write a page on the subject because it is simply too much to add here and so very very important, it deserves its own page. Identifying and finding the plants we are looking for is only a small part of the path. In reality it only leads us to the door. What will you do once you enter Natures door? How will you behave? Will you behave as the best a human can be? And what does that mean? Treat others as you would be treated? What kind of relationship will you have with her? What quality of relationship will you have and what quality of products will you be able to make with Natures bounty? Is there a connection between the two? We are shifting away from quantity based agriculture and mass production. There is only one other and opposing path, and that is the path of the individual, not the masses. The path of depth, not breadth, intuition and not one size fits all generalized solutions . We are at the brink of, and being forced over the cliff into a new way of thinking and behaving in the world. Rethinking. Individual responsibility. Yes, well, perhaps a few pages will be needed to address methods and approach to Wildcrafting and our relationship with nature!

There are mixed opinions as far as what planet rules Wild Ginger. Her heart-shaped leaves and delightful fragrance indicate that she is ruled by Venus, her spiciness seems an indication of Mars being her ruler. I lean towards Venus, especially after working with the essential oil of Wild Ginger in perfumery. It adds a beautiful, depth and richness to a perfume. nothing like the sharpness or heat a Martian scent would share. Thus, the hours and days of Venus are when I harvest this fragrant herb.

astrological glyphs, planetary rulerships.
Astrological Glyphs- Planets and Asteroids Chaldean. Though Planets and their dynamics with each other and our world are one element at the core of Astrodynamics and Plant Alchemy. Each Plant is associated with an astrological sign, planet or both. They are said to resonate on similar frequencies, to share characteristics. Plants are at their peak energetically when their ruler is well aspected or exalted in the current natal chart

So pay attention to the stars. Some things you have to experience for your self, study yourself, and only you can say if it does or does not make a difference to the end product. Some wisdom cannot be given us, taught to us. Perhaps knowledge can be passed down, but wisdom we must earn from life and personal experience.

On a more mundane level.

There really is no way to clean Wild Ginger rhizomes of soil while you’re harvesting. A large quantity of water is necessary anyway you look at it, so I take my harvest home, and I put it in a very large container filled with water.

Never try to clean Wild Ginger in the sink in the house. It will eventually if not immediately clog your trap with silt and mud and add a lot of extra labor to your endeavor. Just because you managed to do this once with no apparent consequences, don’t be fooled, ( as I was).

It usually takes me two or three good washes in deep water scrubbing and stirring the roots and dumping out the dirty water or removing the clean rhizomes from the dirty water before washing them again.

Wild Ginger-Asarum Canadense, scrubbing clean keep changing the water till nothing more can be removed.
Wild Ginger-Asarum Canadense, scrubbing clean and keep changing the water till nothing more can be removed.

A Recipe for making Candied Wild Ginger using fresh rhizomes

-250 Grams, or 1 heaping cup of washed and cleaned Wild Ginger roots cut to 1/2 to 2 inch lengths
-500 Ml. or 2 cups water
-500 Grams or 2 cups white sugar
-extra sugar for coating
-This recipe can be doubled or tripled easily. It yields in its basic form, about 2 cups or 500 grams of candied treats.
—————————————————————-
-Bring water and sugar to a boil
-add cleaned and cut Wild Ginger rhizomes
-bring to a boil
-reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour
-When cooled to room temperature pour syrup mix and Wild Ginger into a glass jar.
-let sit closed for 3 days.
-Pour off syrup and boil till it reaches 125 degrees Celcius.
-Add Wild Ginger and boil for 15 minutes.
-When room temperature, remove Wild Ginger to a rack and allow to drip dry.
-When no more syrup is dripping from the rhizomes roll the pieces in sugar, making sure they are thoroughly coated.
-Let Ginger pieces sit in sugar overnight or for 8 hours.
-Shake off excess sugar and put your candied Wild Ginger in a sealed jar.
– It will keep for years if it does not get consumed first.

Recipe for Wild Ginger Pancake Syrup

Add the sugar from coating the Ginger to the syrup and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Bottle it in sterile jars or decorative bottles where it should keep for a couple of months in a cool dark place. If not using sterile vessels it will keep in the fridge for an equal length of time.

I am almost at the final stage of changing over from wordpress.com to wordpress.org on a self hosted site, incorporating a storefront in the native layout. I will not go into too many details, but the past few weeks have been quite challenging and presented a few steep learning curves with all the expected frustrations and roadblocks. Now for the juggling act, to try to seamlessly transfer everyone over to my new site without anyone,( or googlebots), noticing. Or at least I hope it is not too jarring a transfer. So, sometime over the next few days I hope to do this, be prepared and bear with me while I switch moving vehicles on the highway! I will see you on the other side.

Dan

4 Comments

  1. I forgot to mention that I really appreciate your writings on how to correctly collect from the wild. I had a Wildcrafting business for some time years ago and would always ask permission, leave offerings and not touch the offering plants as you suggest. Giving is as important as receiving in this work. I’m glad you shared how to do it right with us all.
    Thank you,
    Steve

    Like

    1. Thank you for your kind words Steven. You are a kindred spirit. You know exactly what I am referring to. The more of us there are, educating others, the better nature will do in the face of the ongoing stress we are putting her through. I like to imagine every little respectful act helps!
      I get great pleasure from photos of your gorgeous gardens and your special plants. You have created a beautiful sanctuary and botanical garden in the city! Commendable!
      Dan

      Like

  2. Our wild ginger is Asarum caudatum here in the West. Do you think it would work the same? It sure looks the same. I have a big patch in my garden but don’t know if I could harvest such a quantity so I’ll wait till it grows more and maybe someday I can follow these great recipes. Thank you for posting them.
    peace,
    Steve

    Like

    1. Hi Steven.
      Good to hear from you again! I intend to look up asarum Caudatum. I wasn’t aware there was a west coast variety, so a pleasant surprise. The flavour and fragrance of the rhizomes should be your first indication of whether these two species might be interchangeable. I will do some research. Worst case scenario, we should send each other samples for comparison.
      Nice to see your posts coming through again!
      Dan

      Like

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