Growing Ginger: Biker Dude is King

Hugh Johnson will tell you that he’s just a dirt farmer from North Carolina, but you do need dirt for growing ginger. Technology has changed things dramatically, allowing for growing in coir with disease-free seed, making Biker Dude Hawaiian Organic Ginger cream of the crop. A brand with such a reputation for quality in the U.S. that picky retailers, discerning chefs, and high-end organic consumers know it by name. The branding alone is unforgettable. The quality is superior.

Ad for Certified Organic Biker Dude Ginger

If you’ve eaten fresh ginger, you haven’t really experienced it at its finest, until you’ve had Biker Dude Ginger. You won’t find it just anywhere, but those who frequent Whole Foods, and other specialty organic grocery stores, have easy access to the best ginger available in the country. It’s the only brand of chemical and disease-free ginger you can buy.

Not that all other fresh ginger in stores is harmful if eaten. Ginger is so prone to plant pests and diseases that it’s surely tainted when grown in soil. The trick for traditional growers is getting the crop out of the ground before the root quality diminishes to an unsalable state. It’s a field crop relying heavily on chemicals to bring it to the harvest stage. Biker Dude Ginger stands apart from the competition by a mile. It never touches the soil – or the average grocery store shelf.

Hawaii Clean Seed Tissue Culture Ginger

Grown in a remote part of Hawaii, even the seed is pristine. A feat possible only through tissue culture. Like many root crops, sterile ginger is grown from pieces of a mature root. All ginger seed produced in soil may already be infected with fusarium or bacterial wilt. When fusarium strikes, the grower is lucky to harvest half of the crop. The entire crop is lost if attacked by the dreaded bacterial wilt,  a disease that remains active in the soil for 10 years. Both of these pathogens are huge problems due to Hawaii’s wet climate.

Up until about 8 years ago, Hugh grew ginger for the U.S. market organically in soil. Farming is hard enough, but the persistent soil-borne disease issues brought him to join forces with Daniel Kelly.

Dan Kelly - Disease-free Organic Ginger Seed

Dan brought tissue culture and off-ground growing in coir to Biker Dude Ginger production through the Hawaii Clean Seed Project. Puna Organics is the oldest organic ginger farm in Hawaii, and light-years ahead of the competition, which is why their fresh ginger is in big demand on the high-end organic market coast to coast.

Hugh and Dan have other irons in the fire, and edible ginger is only part of the Biker Dude enterprise. They also grow organic turmeric, and can import fresh ginger and turmeric to Canada as a food. The Puna Organics operation is more diversified than edible harvests. They sell coir from inland Thailand too. Their coir is much lower in salts than any other product on the market, because it isn’t from a coastal area. Always aged 2 years, and washed to have below .5 EC.

In 2014, they’re introducing 10 varieties of medicinal ginger. They also sell disease-free organic turmeric and ginger seed to mainland growers. You can grow organic baby ginger in most climates, even in the northern states, and it’s a huge hit at farm markets everywhere. For market growers, fresh baby ginger is an exciting crop with a lucrative price tag for produce that has a waiting market. They’d love to ship their top quality ginger seed beyond the U.S., though importing regulations are tricky.

And finally, Hugh and his wife, Elvira run a sustainable resort serving up a funky blend of southern hospitality and aloha in the middle of beautiful Hawaiian nowhere.

Elvie Johnson: Growing Ginger at Puna Organics in Hawaii

Ginger is best grown in bags above the ground using drip irrigation. It’s a crop that requires hilling, like potatoes and leeks. Covering the rhizomes as they develop is a must to avoid sunburn, which decreases it’s marketability. It isn’t a crop well-suited for hydroponics. It’s most efficiently grown outdoors or in a greenhouse, and not under lights. The crop takes a full season to reach the baby ginger harvest state in subtropical climates.

Toying with the idea of growing ginger from rootstock bought at the grocery store? Unless it’s Biker Dude brand – don’t plant it in the ground! Fusarium spreads like the plague on your hands, shoes, clothes, and garden tools. You’ll infect your soil with pathogens that can attack a lot of other crops in your garden.

Update: It looks like you can buy fresh Biker Dude organic ginger direct from the farm on their website now. You no longer have to live near a grocery store that carries the best quality ginger around. Check out the growing ginger tips too – if anyone will steer you down the right path, it will be Hugh and Dan.

Visit: Hawaiian Organic Ginger for more info.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.