There are some wild edibles that we read about long before we find them. We have an ever-changing wishlist of plants we want to find, photograph, and taste in different stages of growth and in different seasons. Wild ginger is a plant we had unknowingly encountered in the past, admiring it for its unusual flower and pretty foliage. Upon becoming interested in the edible and medicinal properties of ginger, we have had a difficult time finding it in our immediate area. We finally got a tip on where to find large patches of wild ginger, and looked for it this weekend while in the western side of Connecticut. Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is not closely related to commercial ginger, but the flavor and aroma are similar, and the rhizome can be used in the same ways as commercial ginger. Wild ginger is found in moist, shady forests from southeastern Canada into the mountain regions of Georgia, along the east coast of the United States, and as far west as the Dakotas. The rhizomes like undisturbed, rich soil and can be dug from spring to autumn.
Wild ginger is a native herbaceous perennial that spreads through its rhizomes underground. Colonies of ginger will carpet the forest floor in dense patches. The pretty, heart-shaped leaves are 4"-7" wide, reach up to 12" tall, and grow in pairs. They rise directly from the rhizome on fuzzy leafstalks, and the leaf is dark green on top and lighter green on the underside. The leaves are veined and completely soft and fuzzy. Because of the handsome appearance of the foliage, wild ginger makes a good addition to a shady, moist area of your yard as native landscaping.