Wild ginger is a herbaceous plant. The scientific classification is Asarum canadense. It is a perennial. The Wild ginger plant can reach a height of twelve inches. It is a member of the birthwort family. There are two dark green leaves that are shaped like a heart. The leaves have noticeable venation (the vein pattern).
The flower is a purplish brown color and it has three long, radiating calyx (flower sepals) segments.Often the flower is hidden from site and is produced underneath the leaves. They are in bloom from the month of April to the month of July.When crushed the leaves of this plant will release a smell of ginger. The Wild ginger plant reproduces through seed production and rhizomatously. The seeds have a fleshy appendage that is rich with ant attracting oils. It is believed to be an important part of the diet of small rodents.
The root of the Wild ginger plant was used by Native Americans to flavor foods, However it is not the same type of ginger that is sold in most grocery stores.They also used it for headaches, knee pain, arthritis, indigestion, colic and tuberculosis. It was also used as a magical type of protection against illness from eating cursed foods. The plant has been used for medical purposes. They include treating digestive disorders and as a poultice for sores. Coughs, fevers, and sore throats are some other illnesses that were though to be cured by Wild ginger.
Wild ginger is found in woodsy areas from New Brunswick and Quebec to Ontario and Minnesota, south to North Carolina and parts of Louisiana and Alabama
Division is the easiest way to start the Wild ginger. The fruits need to be gathered when they first start to split. All the pulp needs to washed off the seeds so it will not discourage germination. They should be sown outside right away in a shaded seedbed and kept moist through the summer months so they can germinate the following spring. If the plants are kept before planting they should be kept wet in sealed plastic bags and stored at around forty degrees. The seeds can be sown in plugs and they can be later transferred to large pots. Place them in a greenhouse for around three months. They can then be moved to a cold frame and left for around three more months and then they are ready for planting.
One interesting bit of folklore is the use of Wild ginger as a bait used for catfish. The fisherman would chew the root and then put it on the baited hook. When caught the Wild ginger was used to season the same catfish when it was cooked.