Elmer’s All Natural Farm

Viernes is growing one acre of ginger

Elmer Viernes grows produce on 40 acres at Kilohana Plantation. The majority of his produce supplies restaurant 22 North and Luau Kalamaku at Kilohana.

What’s growing: Apple banana, beets, bitter melon, bok choy, cherry tomato, eggplant, herbs, Chinese ginger, green onion, jicama, long beans, okra, peanuts, pineapple, pumpkin, sunrise papaya, sweet potato, wing beans.

CHINESE YELLOW GINGER There are two types of ginger cultivated in Hawaii. Japanese ginger is a small rhizome with a rich, yellow flesh. Chinese ginger is characterized by large rhizomes and light-yellow flesh, and is less pungent than Japanese ginger.

Season: One acre of Viernes’ farm is dedicated to growing ginger. He began harvesting in August and plans to continue until March.

What to look for: Select ginger with smooth, blemish-free skin and plump flesh. Young ginger is tender and juicy. Mature ginger is fibrous and nearly dry. The juice from mature ginger is extremely potent.

Elmer Viernes with his Chinese ginger. Daniel Lane photos

Storage: Wrapped in plastic, ginger will store in the refrigerator for three to four weeks. The longer it’s stored, the tougher it gets. For long-term storage, ginger can be frozen.

Tip: Fresh ginger can be substituted for ground ginger at a ratio of 6 to 1, because the flavor of fresh ginger is mild compared to dried ginger.

Preparation: Ginger can offer a range of flavors depending on how it’s cut. When diced into fine brunoise (small cubes 2 mm wide), it offers a subtle, spicy, citrus-like aroma to stir-fries and sautés. When julienne-cut (the size and shape of a matchstick), it becomes the dominant element of a dish. Try it stirfried with sliced beef, basil leaves and a touch of soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and chicken stock for a quick and delicious meal. When grated, it lends a wonderful freshness and heat to marinades and dressings.

Health benefits: Studies suggest that the short-term use of ginger can safely relieve pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. Ginger is used in Asian medicine to treat stomachaches, nausea and diarrhea.

Elmer’s Farm produce can be found at: Kilohana Plantation’s restaurant 22 North and its Luau Kalamaku. Farmers markets: Kukui Grove, Mondays at 3 p.m.; Kapa’a, Wednesdays at 3 p.m.; Vidinha Stadium, Fridays at 3 p.m.; Kaua’i Community College, Saturdays at 10 a.m. Call 652-4201 for details.

Viernes harvests his ginger from August through March

* 3 ounces unpeeled ginger root
* 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
* 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 2 large eggs
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 2 cups all-purpose flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a muffin tin.

Mince the ginger with a knife, garlic press or in a food processor. Measure out 1/4 cup or a little more, if you like. It’s better to have too much than too little. Put the ginger and 1/4 cup sugar in a small skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar has melted and the mixture is hot. Don’t walk away from the pan as this takes only a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool.

Fresh ginger muffins are light and springy. Daniel Lane photos

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and 3 tablespoons sugar. Add to the ginger mixture.

Put the butter in a bowl and whisk for a second or two, then add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs and whisk well. Add the buttermilk and whisk until blended.

Mix the flour, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl. Add to buttermilk mixture and stir just until smooth. Add the gingerlemon mixture and stir to mix well. Spoon the batter into a lined muffin tin. I like to coat the paper muffin cups with cooking spray so they don’t stick to the paper.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Serve warm.

Makes 12 muffins.

CLARIFICATION: Viernes’ papayas are grown from natural seeds he harvests himself. In the Sept. 28 issue about Sunrise papayas, a distinction was made between Viernes’ papayas and the similarly named GMO SunUp papayas, which Viernes does not grow.