Ginger, the superfood

February 9, 2012

Rooting for ginger


First of all let’s demystify something before we start on this gingery post. I bet some of you may question my choice of ginger as ‘vegetable of the month’ as it is often referred to as an herb. In my defence, ginger belongs to the root vegetables family, which are roots from a plant used as vegetable. Plus ginger holds wonders of health benefactors! And finally since February is the month of love with Valentine’s Day coming up… I thought I’d opt for an aphrodisiac vegetable. Enough said… let’s get to the root of this! (Pun intended)

How to select and store ginger

Fresh ginger root is available year round in the produce section of your local market. Multiple varieties of ginger can be found, the color of the flesh of the root will range from yellow, ivory, red or light green depending on the variety and age. As for the thickness of the brownish skin, it will vary from thick to thin depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young. Tender young ginger can be sliced and eaten as a salad. If you find some green sprouts growing on your ginger roots, have no fear… they can easily be chopped finely and added to a green salad.

When shopping for ginger, look for firm ginger with a smooth skin and emitting a slightly spicy aroma. Avoid the roots that are shriveled and dry or soft and have a spongy feeling. Fresh ginger can be purchased as either young or mature. The young ginger, often referred to as spring ginger, is similar to a young cheese. The aroma and taste are mild, while the outer skin and inner flesh retain a soft tender texture. As the ginger matures the texture hardens, the aroma becomes pungent and the flavor becomes spicy.

Ginger is available in various forms amongst which the most popular are: whole raw roots (fresh ginger), whole fresh roots (green in color the ginger is collected and shipped when still immature), dried roots (black or white depending if they have been peeled or not), powdered ginger, preserved or ‘stem’ ginger (made from fresh young roots that are then peeled and sliced to be cooked in heavy syrup… they are soft and pulpy but extremely hot and spicy), crystallized ginger (also cooked in syrup then air dried and rolled in sugar), ginger juice, ginger oil and pickled (referred to as gari in Japan) ginger which the sushi lovers will recognize.

Ginger freezes well, but it will be best conserved if frozen in smaller unpeeled pieces and tightly wrapped individually. You can keep it in the freezer for approximately 4 to 6 months, depending on the condition and age when placed in the freezer.

As for dried or powdered ginger, make sure to store them in airtight containers. Dried ginger can be kept at room temperature away from heat for 6 to 7 months or in the salad drawer of your refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks before it begins to lose its flavor. The spicy aroma of the ginger should always be present and if not, it has lost its earthy flavor.

Cooking Tip

Mostly used in the form of freshly minced, crushed or sliced, ginger is a popular fragrance (if not an essential one) to Asian cooking such as stir fry dishes, marinades, and fruit salad dressing. It is as well transported into the baking world (usually in the form of powder) with famous gingerbread cookies, spice cake and pumpkin pies which are more common to the Western culinary culture.

Although ground ginger works well for flavoring a variety of foods, it should not be substituted for fresh ginger in recipes that indicate fresh ginger. The taste and perfume of the ginger differ with the use of fresh versus dried ginger. What you can do instead is substitute fresh ginger for ginger juice, which is suitable for both cooking and baking. 1 tablespoon of juice equals 1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger or 1 teaspoon of ground ginger.

As for cleaning up the root, one of the simplest ways to peel ginger consists of gently scraping it with the inside of a spoon. This technique usually ensures less waste then the use of a regular peeler.

Nutriments and fun facts

Native from India and China, ginger is pretty much one of the super medicines found in nature. It shows to work wonders in the treatment of everything from cancer to migraines and stomach aches. Multiple sites and researches online demonstrate the health benefits of ginger. Ginger would be effective against ovarian cancer treatment as well as colon cancer prevention, prostate cancer, leukemia, lung cancer and breast cancer, to only name a few. If you’re suffering from morning sickness (although the use is controversial to some) and nausea, motion sickness, heartburns, migraines or menstrual cramps, ginger is a good alternative (if not better) to over-the-counter medicine to relief you from all of the above. Ginger also shows to be an effective ally when time to treat cold and flu, to reduce pain and inflammation, stimulate circulation, prevent internal blood clots, lower cholesterol, prevent kidney damage associated with diabetes and to treat baldness. For our more adventurous readers who happen to work with or plan on having an encounter with a poisonous snake, have ginger handy as it would also treat a snake bite. Like many things in life, although ginger sums up to have an abundance of health benefits, there can be side effects to consuming large amounts of it. Some recommend taking ginger in tablets to avoid or reduce the possible gastrointestinal effects. To break it down into nutrients, ginger is high in potassium and also contains manganese, silicon, vitamin A, C, E, B-complex, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, iron, zinc, calcium, beta-carotene and helps with the absorption of calcium. Ouf! What a list… super food indeed!

Did you know that ginger is antimicrobial… meaning it kills bacteria. It has been found that ginger kills both internal (ingested) and topical (on surfaces) bacteria, even the dreaded salmonella! While we are in the topic of too-small for the eye organisms, ginger contains zingibain, an enzyme that dissolves parasites from their eggs… interesting if you want to avoid an invasion!

Ginger was one of the earlier spices known in Western Europe (introduced in the ninth century). It became so popular in Europe that it could be found on every table settings right in between salt and pepper (ok maybe it was on the side, I don’t know what were the exact table arrangements criteria back then lol).

Ginger is a diaphoretic… meaning that it makes you sweat. It is believed in the Philippines that chewing ginger will expel evil spirits.

The pop that is commonly known as Ginger ale takes its name from the nineteenth century English pubs and taverns.  Bartender would put out small containers of ground ginger for people to sprinkle into their beers.

It is the ginger’s ability to increase circulation that has classified it as a natural aphrodisiac. When served pickled, candied or in the raw, ginger increases sensitivity in the erogenous zones. Perhaps gingers will become a popular dessert! ; ) Leave it to Alex to find or create a recipe with it!

A big thank you to Steph, as awesome as she is, for taking the time to inform us about Ginger! Love it!!!

  • Pris

    Chewing on ginger, is great to keep teeth their whitest !! I know someone who regularly smokes cuban cigars, and chews on ginger, like gum, and he has the whitest teeth !!!

  • Alex – I Adore Food!

    I will be trying that asap!!! :) Thanks Pris!

  • Bill

    I chew a large piece of ginger before I go to bed with water and when I wake up – I feel so much better. It decrease my appetite for me not increases but I feel much much better digestively.