Ginger is a plant native to India and China, the roots of which are used for many culinary and medicinal purposes. The importance of ginger can be dated back to the writings of Confucius. In 9th century Europe, powdered ginger was placed on the table alongside salt and pepper. This plant has a long history and many famous recipes to its name.
Ginger is used throughout the world. As of 2005, China was the leading producer of ginger, then India, Indonesia, and Nigeria. Many countries have unique uses for the versatile root. In south India, "inji-murappa" candy is made using ginger and sold in tea shops and from street vendors. In Burma, ginger is shredded and preserved in oil for use in a salad dish known as "gyin-tho." "Wedang Jahe" is an Indonesian beverage made from palm sugar and ginger. In Korea, ginger is finely minced for use in "kimchi," a fermented vegetable dish. In Japan, ginger has a variety of traditional uses. It is used to make "shoge" candy and a Japanese pickle known as "beni shoga," and grated for use on tofu. In the Ivory Coast, "nyamanku" is a juice made from ground ginger, orange, lemon and pineapple juice.
Ginger is a perennial root that sprouts a stalk with clusters of small yellow flowers. The leafy stems of the plant can reach up to 4 feet high. Ginger grows best in a tropical climate and is sometimes used in landscaping for homes in tropical and subtropical areas. Ginger has a spicy taste with a bite to it, which diminishes as the root ages. Up to 3 percent of the root is essential oil, which provides its distinct fragrance. Young ginger roots are moist and fleshy, while mature roots are dry and fibrous.
Ginger is used in several forms. Whole raw ginger roots have a pale yellow interior, while the skin color may vary depending on the country of origin. For instance, Jamaican ginger is pale buff, while Indian and African ginger are darker brown. Very fresh roots have a light green skin and are usually found in Asian markets. Preserved ginger is made from young roots that are sliced and canned in heavy sugar syrup. Pickled ginger is sliced and pickled in vinegar, a common accompaniment to Japanese sushi. Dried roots are referred to as either black if they're not peeled or white if they are peeled. Dried ginger roots are used to make powdered ginger.
Ginger has a wide variety of culinary uses. The root is the part of the plant used for all culinary purposes. Ginger is used in a variety of beverages including ginger tea, ale, beer, wine and a ginger-flavored liqueur called Canton produced in France. The spice is also added to coffee. Western cuisine tends to use ginger in a variety of sweet treats such as gingerbread, ginger cake, ginger snaps and even ginger ice cream. Juice from older ginger roots is used as a spice in Indian and Chinese cuisine. Other uses for ginger include puddings, jams, preserves, pickles and chutneys. Young ginger can be sliced and used as a salad topping. Fresh ginger needs to be peeled before use. When storing ginger, tightly wrap the root in a towel, place inside a plastic bag and store for up to three weeks in a refrigerator and up to three months in a freezer.
Ginger is believed to have several health benefits. It has been shown to reduce arthritic joint pain, lower cholesterol and thin blood. Ginger is used as a treatment for stomach cramping and diarrhea, as well as seasickness and morning sickness. Ginger tea is also a common remedy for colds--it can make you sweat, which can break a fever. In India, a ginger paste is applied to the temples as a treatment for headaches. Ginger is also referred to in the Kama Sutra as a powerful aphrodisiac.The FDA has placed ginger on their "generally recognized as safe" list.