Ginger is growing in popularity and is increasingly used in cooking.
Since ancient times it has been used both for its taste and health benefits.
Ginger can be used fresh or dried and ground into a powder. It contains a high amount of antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory, relieves nausea, can reduce muscle pain, stomach gas and improves digestion.
Ginger powder can be paired with chicken, sweet potato, apple, passion fruit, pear, pineapple, pumpkin, squash and mango dishes.
Where does ginger come from?
The origins of ginger are unclear. Although it is cultivated in many tropical climates, there is no data confirming its origin anywhere in the world.
However, references to its cultivation in China and India date back to ancient times, suggesting that it may have originated somewhere between northern India and East Asia.
Because ginger could be easily transported in pots aboard ships, ginger rhizomes were traded as early as the Middle Ages and then replanted in areas with suitable soil and climate.
Ginger is one of the oldest Asian spices to reach south-eastern Europe. It is said that around 2400 BC, a baker on the island of Rhodes made the first gingerbread.
The beneficial properties of ginger were mentioned by Confucius (551 - 479 BC), and in the 1st century (AD), the Greek physician Dioscorides similarly extolled its virtues in his Materia Medica.
Arab traders transported ginger to Greece and Rome, keeping their sources of supply secret.
In the 2nd century AD, ginger was included in the list of imports to Alexandria, subject to customs duties by the Roman Empire.
Ginger became known in Germany and France in the 9th century and in England in the 11th century.
By the 14th century, ginger was the most popular spice in Britain after pepper, and was even recommended by Henry VIII.
Later, gingerbread became a favourite dish of Queen Elizabeth I.
Spain established its own ginger plantations in Jamaica in the 16th century. By 1547 more than 1,000 tonnes of ginger had been exported from Jamaica to Spain.
Around the same time, the Portuguese also set up their own ginger plantations in West Africa.
In the Swiss city of Basel, the street where the spice merchants did business was called Imbergasse, which means "ginger alley".
Ginger is a lush-looking tropical perennial with leaves about 5 mm in diameter, reaching about 1.2m tall.
The shoots have lance-shaped leaves and sprout sideways from the stem of the plant, resembling reeds.
Ginger root, as it is commonly called (the correct term is
rhizome), is the gnarled section of the root system that grows and spreads underground as tubers.
These are also called palms and the smaller branches of the rhizome are called fingers.
The flavour of ginger can vary depending on the variety it comes from, the stage at which it is harvested and the region where it was grown.
The taste of ginger is tart, sweet, spicy and hot to hot, but is influenced to a large extent by the time of harvest. Early harvested ginger rhizomes are sweet and tender, while later harvested rhizomes are more fibrous and pungent to the taste.
Ginger. Health benefits.
For thousands of years in China, India, the Middle East and the Roman Empire, traditional healers have turned to ginger to help soothe nausea. Over the past few decades, scientists around the world have demonstrated that ginger works in motion sickness (nausea) and post-operative vomiting, chemotherapy-induced nausea and nausea caused by digestive disorders.
Ginger is rich in phytonutrients called "gingerols", which are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and for this reason it has been tested by a number of medical research institutes to determine its curative effect on certain diseases.
Arthritis. Researchers at the University of Miami studied 247 people with osteoarthritis of the knee, dividing them into two groups. The first group took a ginger extract, while the second took a placebo.
After six weeks, those who took ginger had 31% less knee pain when standing and 42% less knee pain in those who took walks and less pain medication.
The conclusion of the arthritis and rheumatism research was that "Ginger extract had a statistically significant effect on reducing the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis."
Cancer. Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the M.D. Cancer Center. Aderson at the University of Texas found that ginger extract called "zerum bone" activated genes that lead to the death of colon cancer cells and could also activate the same genes that destroy kidney and pancreatic cancer cells and may help prevent bone loss in breast cancer.
Asthma. Researchers in the UK noted that drugs used to treat asthma often produce "suboptimal" results and that "many patients complain of long-term or short-term side effects from conventional drugs."
To find out whether a drug-free approach could help control asthma, they tested 30 adults with mild to moderate bronchial asthma with either placebo or a natural formula that includes 130g of ginger extract standardized to contain gineoli. After three months, those taking the formula had "clinical improvements in their bronchial asthma symptoms, their overall health was better and their coughing subsided."
Heartburn and stomach pain. Researchers in Taiwan introduced 1200mg of ginger into the diet of 24 healthy people and measured gastric emptying - the speed at which the stomach digested food improved by 50%. Emptying the stomach too slowly can cause heartburn, bloating, belching and flatulence immediately after eating.
Ginger reduces gastric emptying time by half compared to placebo. This effect could be beneficial in people with heartburn and other types of digestive disorders, the researchers concluded in the European Journal of Hepatology and Gastroenterology.
Source: Healing Spices
Ginger can be preserved in two ways:
- By preserving - in brine, in syrup or candied.
- By drying - sliced and dried ginger or ginger powder.
Young rhizomes are used to preserve ginger, because they are sweeter and less fibrous than mature ones.
Peel the ginger, cut it into thin slices or slices up to 1 cm thick. Leave in brine for 24 hours, then drain and add new brine, this time with a little vinegar. Keep in brine for up to 7 days to pickle ginger.
To get ginger in syrup, remove from the brine, wash and soak in cold water (which changes a few times over two days). Boil for 10 minutes then add to the water with sugar.
Ginger powder lacks the fresh, volatile flavour of fresh ginger, but retains the pungent, fragrant character of ginger.
In the spice trade, dried ginger is sold in six grades that indicate how to prepare it:
1) Peeled or scraped. Basically only the peel is removed without damaging the rhizome.
2) Hard scraped - only the flat parts
3) Dried in the peel - it is dried exactly as harvested
4) Black ginger - it is left for 10-15 minutes in steamed water. This process prevents sprouting, makes grating easier, but its hue turns dark. Hence the name.
5) Blanched ginger - is peeled and then treated with a sulphur or calcium oxide solution to achieve the white colour
6) Sliced - sliced with the peel and left to dry
Dried, sliced and ground ginger can be stored in an airtight container away from heat, light and moisture. Stored this way, it will last up to 1 year.
Ginger can be classified as one of the most versatile spices.
Its slightly tonic, spicy taste, warmth and sweetness complement a wide range of dishes, both sweet and savoury.
Fresh, preserved, or powdered ginger is often used in cakes or pastries.
As a brief aside, I have a favorite ginger biscuit recipe, but I never get to enjoy the result because they disappear quickly, right off the baking sheet.
In Asian cuisine, fresh ginger forms a perfect marriage with garlic and chilli in cooked dishes.
Ginger can be combined with:
- All Spices
- Chilli peppers
- Curry leaves
- Fennel seeds
- Star anise
Ginger is used in spice blends like:
- Barbecue spices
- Curry powder
- Pie mix (pumpkin, apple)
- Ras el hanout
Ginger tea recipe
Ingredients for one serving:
- Three slices of ginger about 1 cm thick
- One tablespoon honey (any type)
- Juice of one yellow lemon of suitable size
- Two thin slices of lime
- 250ml water
Heat 250ml of water to a temperature of about 70O (when the water starts to make small air bubbles). Prepare the ingredients and add them to a blender: finely chopped ginger, quartered lime slices, juice from one yellow lemon, tablespoon of honey and a quarter of the amount of warm water.
Blend for two, three, minutes then add the rest of the hot water. The water does not have to be boiling to avoid destroying the beneficial effect of the honey and lemon.
Pour the contents into a mug.
This preparation is also a good cold-weather remedy for treating colds and boosting immunity.