Note the pair of heart-shaped, smooth-edged basal (bottom) leaves, the slender rhizome (underground stem), and the hairy roots.
One of my favorite wild seasonings, wild ginger is a small plant with paired, heart-shaped leaves emerging from the ground. And hanging from the crotch between the two leaves youíll find a single 3-parted deep purple-brown flower.
Wild Ginger in Flower
The flowers grow at ground level because ants pollinate them.
The stem, a brittle underground horizontal rhizome the thickness of a pipe cleaner, exudes a strong ginger fragrance. Youíll find it in partially sunny wooded areas throughout eastern North America, as well as in cultivated areas (landscapers planted the European species in Central Park, for example) anywhere.
Wild Ginger With Its Roots
The plant grows in dense stands because it spreads by the root system as well as through seeds.
Once you locate this widespread, common plant you'll begin using the rhizome in all recipes that call for ginger. I add it to desserts, curries, and various other ethnic dishes. Unrelated to its Asian namesake, various native and European wild ginger species provide a similar but more subtle flavor.
European Wild Ginger With Its Roots
This plant's leaves are more rounded than its American relative.
European Wild Ginger Flower
Some of nature's most beautiful creations require magnification for us to appreciate them.