When I was a kid, I thought that ginger was a spice quite similar to a peppercorn or a clove.  Much different from the knobby root that it is, I thought that ginger grew in small little pods that were then ground up into a powder that my mother used to make gingerbread cookies and apple crisp. I was given Canada Dry when I had a stomach bug…only to find out years later that the soda I had been drinking didn’t even have real ginger in it. It was only recently that I began to realize the true medicinal powers of ginger, and began to embrace the plant for its digestive properties and spunky, fresh flavor!

Missy with the ginger crop. (Photo credit: Old Friends Farm)

Fast forward 15 or so years. I’m taking a walk with Casey Steinberg of Old Friends Farm, as he gives me details about the farm he started with his “old friend” from college, Missy Bahret. Six years ago, the duo decided they wanted to try growing ginger, right here in Amherst, Massachusetts! Hair-brain-scheme? Perhaps, seeing as ginger is typically grown in tropical climates quite opposite to New England. But with the help of a heated greenhouse and eager farm-help, Old Friends Farm pioneered the first crop of Northeast ginger!

Flowers growing in one of the farm’s various greenhouses!

When I asked Casey why they decided to grow ginger, he responded, “Well, we really love eating ginger”.  That was a good enough response for me, for the root’s flavor alone is enough to make me want to try growing my own, but Casey continued to explain the thought process behind this endeavor.  When Casey and Missy moved Old Friends Farm to its current location at Bramble Hill, the farm was equipped with a heated greenhouse.  Casey explained to me that when you stepped inside, you felt like you had been transported from chilly New England to a tropical paradise.  They thought ‘what could we grow in this tropical weather?’ The answer? Ginger of course.  The farm, also a producer of fresh salad greens, a variety of vegetables, eggs, and flowers, now fills a void in the local farming community: they provide people of the Northeast with fresh, young ginger that isn’t imported from halfway across the globe! Every Saturday at the Amherst Farmers’ Market, people flock to the Old Friends Farm tent to get their hands on some local ginger. I can’t wait to try some of my own.

A tried and true recipe that will force you to rethink the way that you use ginger…

Ginger Infused Honey:

1 medium sized ginger root

1 ½ cups honey

Grate or thinly slice the ginger root into a small bowl.  Pour the honey over the ginger and mix thoroughly.  Let sit for 1-2 hours.  Pour the honey over a cheesecloth or fine strainer to eliminate large pieces of ginger.  Serve with tea, over berries, with a muffin, or on toast for a bit of sweetness with a kick!

Dig in!


Amherst Food Warrior