Ginger is native to India and China. It takes its name from the Sanskrit word stringa-vera, which means “with a body like a horn”, as in antlers. Although it is most commonly referred to as “ginger root” it is actually a rhizome. In botany a rhizome is basically an underground stem of a plant. This is the part we use in cooking and to dry for spices. When fresh, using the edge of a spoon is the easiest way to remove the skin. Simply run the edge of the spoon perpendicularly against the ginger and you'll be amazed how easy the skin comes off. When buying ginger look for a big firm hand, unblemished skin, and large "fingers."
Ginger is most commonly known for its effectiveness as a digestive aid increasing digestive fluids and saliva production. Making a tea by boiling a large smashed piece of ginger in water has been proven to relieve indigestion, gas pains, diarrhea and stomach cramping. It also helps blood circulation, cleanses the bowels and kidneys, removes toxins from the body, and nourishes the skin. Ginger is a known diaphoretic, meaning it causes one to sweat. Ginger may also be used to help break fevers by warming the body and increasing perspiration as well it will sooth a sore throat.
Ginger has been important in Chinese medicine for many centuries and is mentioned in the writings of Confucius. It is named in the Koran, indicating it was known in Arab countries as far back as 650 A.D. It is also mentioned in the Karma Sutra. In the Philippines it is chewed to expel evil spirits. It was one of the earliest spices known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century. It was so popular in Europe that it was included in every table setting, like salt and pepper. It was used against the plague and, in English pubs and taverns in the nineteenth century, barkeepers put out small containers of ground ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer — the origin of ginger ale.
Ginger has long been ascribed aphrodisiac powers, taken either internally or externally.
In Asian cooking ginger is almost always used fresh, either minced, crushed or sliced. That is why I refer to it as a vegetable. Fresh ginger can be kept for several weeks in the salad drawer of the refrigerator. Dried ginger should be ‘bruised’ by beating it to open the fibers, then it can be used to infuse cooking liquids or broths... or when making ginger beer, and it should be removed when the flavour is sufficient. Store dried or powdered ginger in airtight containers.
Stay tuned for great ginger recipies