Today, the 3rd Sunday of July, is National Ice Cream Day. While a noble holiday in itself, not something that immediately screams gardening. Unless perhaps you’ve just come in from your sunny, humid flower beds. Of course Google finds everything is connected! There are many wonderful recipes for homemade ice cream using garden herbs and fruit. One delicious sounding recipe in particular, highlights a beautiful little plant for making Wild Ginger Ice Cream. Both native wild gingers and an introduced European wild ginger grow in the U.S. Two native varieties are found in the northern part of Florida, Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense) and mottled wild ginger (Asarum shuttleworthii). They should be considered for experimenting with here. Mottled wild ginger is suggested into zone 8, so it would likely do better locally. There are a few cultivars. The mottled species has ‘Callaway,’ a mat-forming plant and ‘Eco Medallion,’ a silvery version with compact growth. The Canadian variety has ‘Eco Choice,’ a denser form and ‘Eco Red Giant,’ which is larger than others.
These are not related to the familiar culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale), but do have a similar scent and flavor. One advantage over culinary ginger is that when harvesting, you only use the leaves and need not kill the plant. They are a perennial ground cover which prefers a woodland type environment, so a moist end of a shade garden is where you’d want to put one. In dappled sun and a good humus soil, they are very low maintenance. The flowers aren’t very showy, this would primarily be grown for the foliage. Slow growing, it spreads by its rhizome and is not considered aggressive or invasive. European ginger is not recommended for consumption, so make sure you are getting a native variety. Note: Wild ginger is a diuretic and contains Aristolochic acid, which can contribute to kidney problems. If you have kidney problems do not use this plant. Read this article for further information on its effect on the kidneys, and its pleasant use as tea.
Since you can’t grow your own ice cream overnight, you can cheat and try the garden themed ice cream cake, linked above.