GINGER (Zingiber Officinalis)
See also: Ginger Facts & Trivia
Ginger was used in ancient times as a food preservative and to help treat digestive problems. To treat digestive problems, Greeks would eat ginger wrapped in bread. Eventually ginger was added to the bread dough creating that wonderful treat many around the globe love today: gingerbread!
Ginger ale eventually stemmed from a ginger beer made by the English and Colonial America as a remedy for diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.
Ginger thrives in the tropics and warmer regions and is therefore currently grown in parts of West Africa, the West Indies, India and China with the best quality ginger coming from Jamaica where it is most abundant. In the United States, ginger is grown in Florida, Hawaii, and along the eastern coast of Texas.
Gingerroot is characterized by it’s strong sweet, yet woodsy smell. It is tan in color with white to creamy-yellow flesh that can be coarse yet stringy.
Selection and Storage
Ginger is available year-round. When selecting gingerroot, choose robust firm roots with a spicy fragrance and smooth skin. Gingerroot should not be cracked or withered. It can be stored tightly wrapped in a paper towel or plastic wrap (or put into a plastic bag) in the refrigerator for 2–3 weeks and like galangal, gingerroot can also be placed in a jar of sherry and refrigerated for 3–6 months.
Peel skin from the root and gently peel the skin beneath (that closest to the root is the most flavorful). Gingerroot can be sliced or minced (minced gingerroot gives the most pungent flavor). Ginger is popular in Asian cuisine where it is used both fresh and dried. Ginger can also be found crystallized, candied, preserved and pickled.
The powdered, dried form of ginger has a more spicy, intense flavor and is often used in baking (gingerbread, gingersnaps, ginger cookies).
The aromatic rhizome of this 30 – 60 cm tall tropical plant is used in food preparation and as medicine for centuries in southeastern Asia. There, pharmacists recommend it for any ailment with which people may be afflicted.
After ginger was first introduced in Europe (approximately 800 AD) it ranked second to pepper as a spice for centuries.
Ginger grows in southern China, Japan, West Africa, and many other tropical countries including the Caribbean islands. Jamaican ginger is considered to be the best of all.
Chinese cooks use ginger with beef successfully, whereas European chefs prefer to use it as an exotic flavouring for fresh fruit salads, or to give cream of carrot soup and extra kick.
English make candied ginger, ginger jam, and dry it to be ground and use as a condiment.
Chinese dry ginger and sell it as green ginger. Black ginger is first scalded and then dried.
Fresh ginger is best. Its thin skin can be scraped with the back of a spoon and then cut, grated or pounded to mix into soups, sauces and stews.
Ginger possesses an intriguing; sweet, spicy and pungent flavour rendering it suitable for use in a range of dishes from stir-fried beef to ginger tea.
Ginger ale, ginger beer and ginger wine are only vaguely flavoured with ginger.