Ginger is by far one of my favorite ingredients to use. I’ve grown up eating plenty of ginger because my mom used a lot of it in the traditional dishes she made. Ginger is a staple in a lot of Asian dishes. Ginger is aromatic, pungent, and spicy and adds a lot of flavor.
The spice ginger is the underground rhizome (mass of roots) of the ginger plant, known botanically as Zingiber officinale. The plant’s botanical name is thought to be derived from its Sanskrit name singabera which means “horn shaped,” a physical characteristic that ginger reflects.
The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young. The ginger rhizome has a firm, yet striated texture.
Native to southeastern Asia, a region whose cuisines still feature this wonderfully spicy herb, ginger has been renowned for millennia in many areas throughout the world. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties.
After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, its popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when its use spread throughout other countries.
Although it was a very expensive spice, owing to the fact that it had to be imported from Asia, it was still in great demand. In an attempt to make it more available, Spanish explorers introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting the precious herb back to Europe.
Today, the top commercial producers of ginger include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.
GINGER & HEALTH
Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative (a substance which promotes the elimination of intestinal gas) and intestinal spasmolytic (a substance which relaxes and soothes the intestinal tract).
Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects, an ability to inhibit the formation of inflammatory compounds, and direct anti-inflammatory effects.
Ginger can not only be warming on a cold day, but can help promote healthy sweating, which is often helpful during colds and flus. A good sweat may do a lot more than simply assist detoxification.
Ginger is so concentrated with active substances, you don’t have to use very much to receive its beneficial effects. For nausea, ginger tea made by steeping one or two 1/2-inch slices (one 1/2-inch slice equals 2/3 of an ounce) of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water will likely be all you need to settle your stomach. For arthritis, some people have found relief consuming as little as a 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger cooked in food.
GINGER STORAGE & SELECTION
Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice since it is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol (anti-inflammatory compounds) as well as ginger’s active protease (its anti-inflammatory compound). Fresh ginger root is sold in the produce section of markets. When purchasing fresh ginger root, make sure it is firm, smooth and free of mold. Ginger is generally available in two forms, either young or mature. Mature ginger, the more widely available type, has a tough skin that requires peeling while young ginger, usually only available in Asian markets, does not need to be peeled.
Even through dried herbs and spices like ginger powder are widely available in supermarkets, you may want to explore the local spice stores in your area.
Ginger is also available in several other forms including crystallized, candied and pickled ginger.
Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months.
Dried ginger powder should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Alternatively, you can store it in the refrigerator where it will enjoy an extended shelf life of about one year.
GINGER COOKING TIPS & HINTS
To remove the skin from fresh mature ginger, peel with a paring knife. The ginger can then be sliced, minced or julienned. The taste that ginger imparts to a dish depends upon when it is added during the cooking process. Added at the beginning, it will lend a subtler flavor while added near the end, it will deliver a more pungent taste.
Here are a few simple ginger recipes to try
½ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
¼ cup orange juice
4 teaspoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced scallions
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Whisk orange zest, orange juice, oil, scallions, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl until well blended. (Alternatively, combine ingredients in a small jar, secure the lid and shake until blended.)
Spinach, watercress and Belgian endive are good matches for this zesty dressing.
Ginger Cheesecake Dessert (from Betty Crocker)
1 pouch Betty Crocker® gingerbread cookie mix
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tablespoon water
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups frozen (thawed) whipped topping
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, water and egg until soft dough forms.
2. Make 5 cookies by shaping dough into 5 (1-inch) balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are set. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.
3. Meanwhile, press remaining dough in pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
4. In large bowl, beat milk, cream cheese and lemon juice with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over cooled cookie base.
5. Crumble 5 baked cookies; sprinkle over cream cheese mixture. Cover; refrigerate about 1 hour or until chilled. Store covered in refrigerator.
Chicken with Ginger, Scallions, Cilantro, and Chili Peppers
*This is one of my go-to recipes I make for dinner – it’s delicious, fragrant, and spicy. I don’t normally use exact measures when making this dish, so you can add/subtract depending on how you want it. The amounts I list sound about right when I make it.
4 to 6 chicken thighs or breasts, sliced into stir-fry pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup to 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
1 cup sliced mushrooms (baby bellas or white buttons are fine)
2 tbsp minced ginger
3 to 4 green scallions chopped
handful of cilantro chopped
2 to 3 Thai Chili peppers minced
1. In a large skillet or wok (preferred), add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add minced garlic and let it saute for a 1-2 minutes. Add your chicken and cook until it’s no longer pink (6-8 minutes, stir constantly) – at this point, you can add a little salt to flavor the chicken, just a few pinches.
2. Once chicken is cooked, add tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or so until tomatoes are tender and can be “mashed” with a wooden spoon. Press down on tomatoes in pan lightly. Add ginger, scallions, cilantro, and peppers and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Serve with rice and enjoy!
- Turn up the heat while cooling off by making ginger lemonade. Simply combine freshly grated ginger, lemon juice, cane juice or honey and water.
- Add extra inspiration to your rice side dishes by sprinkling grated ginger, sesame seeds and nori strips on top.
- Combine ginger, tamari, olive oil and garlic to make a wonderful salad dressing.
- Add ginger and orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes.
- Add grated ginger to your favorite stuffing for baked apples.
- Spice up your healthy sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger.
*I do have several dessert recipes that feature ginger and will add those later this month as the holiday nears 🙂