Like so many of the spices that grace our kitchen, ginger isn’t just a delicious and aromatic ingredient, it’s also a powerful traditional medicine. Ginger is excellent at soothing stomachs (in hot water as a tea) and helping indigestion as well as having anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. For centuries women have used ginger as a safe way of combatting morning sickness. Ginger is excellent at reducing the symptoms associated with travel sickness, including dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and cold sweating.
Ginger comes in many shapes (quite literally – as the root produces the most amazingly surrealistic shapes as it grows) and ages (as it can be harvested young or mature, with differences in flavour and skin texture). It’s available in a variety of forms, including fresh, powdered, pickled, and crystallised. As far as taste and nutrition are concerned, fresh beats any of the other forms hands down and, because of ginger’s popularity, you can buy it all over the world. Don’t confuse ginger with its cousin galangal which is sometimes called blue ginger.
You can keep unpeeled ginger in the fridge for two or three weeks. When you peel it, remove the skin with a paring knife and then slice, mince, or chop matchstick fine. The taste that ginger gives depends upon when it is added during the cooking process – at the beginning it will give a subtler flavour while near the end, it will give a more pungent taste.
Ginger is essential in many Asian cuisines. Many Chinese and Indian recipes call for starting out by frying the three friends – ginger, garlic, and onion. These flavour the oil and give a wonderful spicy aroma to the finished dish. Japanese cuisine uses grated ginger combined with other ingredients such as sesame seeds and nori strips as garnishes for dishes such as rice. But you can use ginger in so many ways in European style cooking as well. Mix minced ginger with soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic for a tangy salad dressing. Use ginger and orange juice to give puréed sweet potatoes as kick. Add freshly minced ginger to sautéed veggies or try a ginger ice cream. However you chose to enjoy ginger, rest assured that it won’t just taste wonderful, it will also do you a power of good.