What is Ginger?
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.
It has been important in Chinese medicine for many centuries, and is mentioned in the writings of Confucius. It is also named in the Koran, the sacred book of the Moslems, indicating it was known in Arab countries as far back as 650 A.D. It was one of the earliest spice known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century.
It became so popular in Europe that it was included in every table setting, like salt and pepper. A common article of medieval and Renaissance trade, it was one of the spices used against the plague.
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. In order to ’gee up’ a lazy horse, it is the time honoured practice of Sussex farmers to apply a pinch of ginger to the animal’s backside.
Dried roots are sold either ‘black’ with the root skin left on, or ‘white’ with the skin peeled off. The dried root is available whole or sliced.
Smell: warm, sweet and pungent.
Flavour: Fiery and pungent
Heat Scale: 7
Ginger is actually fairly unique as spices go. It is a root that has a bite to it, so for sliced/chopped/minced, the closest may actually be garlic. It’s not the same, but it has a similar “feel” to it. For ground ginger, the closest is probably cinnamon.
Preparation and Storage
In Asian cooking ginger is almost always used fresh, either minced, crushed or sliced. 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 infused in the cooking or making ginger beer and removed when the flavour is sufficient. Store dried and powdered ginger in airtight containers.
Health Benefits of Ginger
Ginger has long been ascribed aphrodisiac powers, taken either internally or externally. It is mentioned in the Karma Sutra, and in the Melanesian Islands of the South Pacific it is employed ‘to gain the affection of a woman’. Conversely, in the Philippines it is chewed to expel evil spirits.
Ginger is a known diaphoretic, meaning it causes one to sweat. It was recorded that Henry VIII instructed the mayor of London to use ginger’s diaphoretic qualities as a plague medicine. Ginger is most commonly known for its effectiveness as a digestive aid. By increasing the production of digestive fluids and saliva, it helps relieve indigestion, gas pains, diarrhea and stomach cramping.
The primary known constituents include gingerols, zingibain, bisabolenel, oleoresins, starch, essential oil (zingiberene, zingiberole, camphene, cineol, borneol), mucilage, and protein. It is also used to treat nausea related to both motion sickness and morning sickness. It has been found to be even more effective than Dramamine® in curbing motion sickness, without causing drowsiness.
Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties help relieve pain and reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, rheumatism and muscle spasms. Ginger’s therapeutic properties effectively stimulate circulation of the blood, removing toxins from the body, cleansing the bowels and kidneys, and nourishing the skin. Other uses for ginger include the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems by loosening and expelling phlegm from the lungs. It may also be used to help break fevers by warming the body and increasing perspiration.
East Indian Pepper, Jamaica Ginger, Jamaica Pepper
German: Ingwer Italian: zenzero
Spanish: jengibre Burmese: cheung, chiang, jeung
Indian: adruk (green), ard(r)ak(h) (green), sont(h) (dried)
Japanese: mioga, myoga, shoga
Thai: k(h)ing (green)