Alibi V.16 No.2 • Jan 11-17, 2007 

Ask Chef Boy Ari

A Spice Too Far?

Q: Dear CBA,

I’m slowly getting into the “buying local” thing, but I’m wondering where I’m going to get ginger for stir-fry, cookies, ginger ale, medicine, etc.

Seems it usually comes from Hawaii or Thailand. Is there a way to grow it here?

—Missing My Snap

A: Dear Snapless,

Don’t forget, the buy local thing is not about self-inflicted hardship. Sure, you could plant some ginger root in a pot and probably get it to grow. But you would need a very large pot to grow enough ginger to satisfy your apparently large appetite for the spicy tuber. Is it worth it?

To me, the most important part of buying local is to buy the items locally that are already grown where you are. Buying carrots from California, for example, is silly when they grow just fine here.

But ginger, well, it does taste good, and I’m not going to ask anyone to avoid any of the glorious fruits of our home planet for the sake of abstract principles. You can’t save the world in one meal, with or without ginger.

But one way to reduce the impact of your hunger for ginger is to use ginger powder whenever possible—in those cookies, for instance. Ginger powder doesn’t require refrigeration, and it doesn’t go bad too quickly, which means it can be sent over from the tropics on a slow boat, which is much more efficient than, say, a plane, or even a refrigerated cargo boat.

To me, eating locally is about developing as many local sources for your food as you can, and then not sweating it when you want some coffee, chocolate or ginger. We’re not Puritans, after all. And even when your food comes from the other side of the world, at least you’ve taken the time to think about it.

Send your food and garden queries to