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34 responses to “Wild Ginger: Delicious or Deadly?”

  1. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Hank, I think this is my favorite kind of HAGC post. Science! Wild food! Ice cream!

    I’d always heard that Eastern wild ginger was inedible, and so never looked twice at it. Now that I know otherwise, I’ll try and get hold of some. Even though I am perfectly capable of eating a quart of ice cream in a day, I can probably restrain myself to safe levels.


  2. Gary Lincoff

    Nicely done.

  3. Connie Green

    Many many thanks for doing your homework on this seductive plant. I’ve always an attraction and yet hesitation about it. This has been extremely helpful. The plant is spread abundantly through the low areas in the mountains here in California right now. I’ll pass on the Wild ginger gin and tonics now.

  4. Nessie

    I just read your posts on Asarum, Sassafras, and Chickling Vetch. I love that you did all this digging and cut through all the fog. I wish I had your talent. I’ve been working on a post of my own on if Cladophora in the Great Lakes is edible like it is in the Mekong, and I keep hitting walls. Keep up the good work!

  5. Meredith

    Love Wild Ginger! Just to look at though, never tried to eat it. Don’t see it as often as I used to here in PA. Also love to see latin binomials presented correctly! 😉

  6. Holden Ford

    How badly does aristolochic acid leach out when cooked in fat or oils? I recently watched a tv show on how Perfumes and Colognes are made, and one part they talked about how if an ingredient or parts of an ingredient cant be leached out by water they would cook it in fat and then strip out the sent/flavor with alcohol. So if the fat doesn’t leach out the of AA then you might be able to make your ginger flavored vodka.

  7. Squeak

    Share the ice cream recipe, please

  8. shotgunner

    Your math is off by a factor of 100. To determine the qty contained using percent you must add 2 zeros after the decimal before you multiply. The term “percent” is literally per hundred. 0.037 per hundred or 0.00037 per each.

    Your math is 56,699 * 0.037 = 2098 milligrams. That math assumes the ginger contains 3.7% AA. I am sure you can see this is very near 2 grams per 50 grams or very near 4 grams per hundred. 4 grams per hundred is 0.04 or 4%.

    56,699*.00037 = 20.98 mg or, likely a very safe dose for a single meal. I’d love to taste it.

  9. Ellen

    I’ve eaten the stolons dried and fresh for years, in both sweet and savory dishes. It’s one of my favorite flavors and I’ve always thought the threat of toxicity was exaggerated. Thanks fr doing the math.

  10. shotgunner

    @Hank – I am happy to help. At least now you know you can eat it! Even in vinegar.

    Please keep huntin’, fishin’, foragin’, cookin’ and most of all, writing about it!

  11. Chris Troutner

    Wow, wild ginger looks a lot like False Lily of the Valley. How do I tell the difference?

  12. Maria

    @Chris, If you want to spot the difference without crouching down to smell, look at the veins on the leaf. False lily of the valley has a set of quasiparallel veins instead of wild ginger’s branching network.

  13. Sarah

    @ Chris, the flowers are also quite different. So maybe find a patch of what you believe to be ginger blooming, then harvest. I read that it can be harvested any time of year, but that fall is best. Ginger blooms in april-ish.

  14. National Ice Cream Day treat | Homosassa River Garden Club

    […] 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 […]

  15. RK Henderson

    Thanks, Hank! I’ve been trying to clear this up since I read that Asarum is toxic two years ago, and not drinking any more Asarum tea in the meantime. (Prior to that, it was a favourite tea mixing ingredient here.) Multiple Internet searches over the interval revealed nothing I could use, mostly just “wild ginger kills, don’t use it”, with no elaboration. Of course, I drank it for years and I’m not dead yet, but as you say, one never knows if it’s a matter of accretion, or variation by location, or whatever.

    I’m going to post on this topic myself in the near future, and will credit and link to your excellent analysis when I do.

    And now I’m off to gather some wild ginger for tea. Can’t wait!

    Rusty Ring: Reflections of an Old-Timey Hermit

  16. 10 Medicinal Herbs that are Also Perennial | The Survival Podcast

    […] Wild Ginger Delicious or Deadly […]

  17. elainehope

    thank you so much, I have found wild ginger around our house and thought that it might be a good idea to make Shure it was safe to eat before eating it.

  18. Bmccoy830

    I eat my ginger roots from variegated ginger plants in my garden. I put it in everything! Am I dead yet? Let me check… No, I don’t think so. Just saying! — Texas

  19. Rebecca McCurdy

    I assume same for CA high-mountain species A. hartwegii and A. lemmonii?

    Great piece!

  20. Jennifer

    I have a flower bed full of live wild ginger plants and LOTS of roots. Anyone want the roots? Too risky for me.

  21. Heidi hill

    Hi. I’m looking to buy the actual root of the wild ginger plant. Do you have any suggestions on where I can buy this root?

  22. Kali Perrone

    if you cook the ginger in a small amount of vinegar and discard the vinegar, I don’t think you would be able to stomach enough to have any associated health issues if you are a person of average health. this is also recommended for all greens that contain oxalic acid which can be dangerous to people with certain health conditions and is just not generally good in large amounts for anyone.spinach does contain enough of it that people with kidney stones are told to avoid it and certain people do develop inflammation issues from eating too many Raw greens. while I think this information is great and I appreciate you writing this article, in my opinion from working with herbs for many years is that we all tend to be extra cautious, and perhaps a little bit overly concerned with things that are not a large effect in the bigger picture.I really don’t think that anybody in the western half of states will ever have a problem with the low levels of a AA in the wild ginger. considering it usually grows by hemlock, and other highly toxic plants, I would be more concerned with accidentally getting some butter cup leaves or other plant material in with the ginger than the ginger itself. which also shouldn’t be a problem if you are a halfway aware individual so I guess what I’m saying is that all you really need is common sense and you should feel fairly comfortable with working with so called questionably toxic herbs.

  23. Sally

    Question: I know wild ginger is contraindicated in pregnancy. However, what harm if any would simply tasting a small piece of the fresh root and then spitting out the remaining pulp cause? I unknowingly tasted it with a friend who may be pregnant. Thanks!

  24. J.F.

    I would be very surprised if the acid bio-accumulates. Typically this is only seen with things that have a limited metabolic pathways such as heavy metals or synthetic organics like DDT or PCBs.

  25. Aurora Salinas

    We met at Wild About Game, my name is Aurora Andrea and my boyfriend is Cameron he was working at the Bluehour stand. Anywho, we foraged a ridiculous amount of Wild Ginger root but after reading through some articles some are saying its best to use the stem. Which do you prefer? Is there a difference in using the root and not the stem? I have had them in water since 1am last night. Also I can’t wait to make some of your da bomb ice cream!

  26. Mel

    Just researching a bout of food poisoning from home made ginger kombucha. Not Wild ginger but thought you might find that interesting. The blueberry batch didn’t cause problems.

  27. Pam Moore

    I planted ginger in my garden many years ago. It was given to me and I was told it was the kind you use in cooking. It has never flowered. I am trying to cook with more herbs and spices and would like to cook with this ginger if it is safe. Could I send you a picture of the plant and root and after looking at the plant could you tell me if it is safe for cooking. Please respond. Many thanks.

    Pam Moore

  28. Leslie

    which part of the Wild Ginger do you eat just the root or leafs too?

  29. Matt

    I was deep in the woods meditating and I came across this plant; had no idea what it was but it smelled nice so I decided to munch on some. Later I got home and looked it up knowing that somehow it must have some medicinal value (I could just tell!) and relieved to find out it does, and that it isn’t harmful. Thanks for the post!

  30. Karen Morrow

    Great article! I’ve been diagnosed with kidney failure from a DNA mutation producing aristolochic acid which can come from Wild Ginger. I have no idea where this may have come from. Is it used in herbal supplements under a different name? Was it used in Phen Phen diet pills?

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