Something we associate with this time of year is the gingerbread cookie. But how much do we really know about ginger itself?
Ginger is the underground stem from the plant Zingiber officinale, and it has been used historically in Asian, Indian and Arabic herbal medicines and cooking recipes.
Throughout China, ginger is heralded for its digestive properties and used to treat nausea, diarrhea and stomach upset. Additional uses of ginger include treatment of arthritis, colic, heart conditions and diarrhea. Flu symptoms, headaches and painful menstrual periods are also thought to benefit from the remedies afforded by ginger.
The dual medicinal and culinary purposes of ginger make it a viable force that has endured more than 4,400 years. It is native to Asia and enjoys fertile, moist soil. For your enjoyment, provided here are some various ways in which to use ginger root to greatest benefit, both for healing and cooking.
Selection and Storage
Fresh ginger can be found in most grocery stores. Persons are advised to look for a smooth skin and fresh, spicy fragrance. The tubers should feel firm and slightly heavy. Mature ginger is longer and more fibrous than that which is not, but wrinkled flesh is an indication that the ginger is past its prime.
Once purchased, experts recommend that fresh and unpeeled ginger root should be wrapped in paper towels and placed into a re-sealable plastic bag. Ginger can be refrigerated for up to three weeks and tightly wrapped and frozen for up to two months.
A viable way to store peeled ginger root is in Madeira or Sherry wine inside a glass container. This should be refrigerated and will keep for up to three months. This method, however, imparts a wine flavor, so take care in certain recipes. Dried ginger is best stored in a cool, dark space inside an airtight container.
Using Ginger Root for Medicinal Purposes
Health care professionals today routinely recommend ginger for the treatment of nausea and vomiting that are associated with pregnancy, motion sickness and cancer chemotherapy. Ginger is also used to relieve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, and scientific studies support its use for each of these conditions.
Some different ways in which the medicinal benefits of ginger can be experienced are as follows. Persons are advised, however, to speak with a health care provider before starting any course of herbal treatment.
- To relieve nausea, gas or indigestion, take 2 to 4 grams of fresh ginger root daily or 30 to 90 drops of liquid extract daily. To prevent vomiting associated with chemotherapy treatment, two ginger capsules can be taken three times daily. A fresh piece of ginger can also be chewed as needed.
- For arthritis pain, fresh ginger juice or extract should be taken in doses of 2 to 4 grams daily. Ginger tea can also be taken, and this is made by putting sliced ginger root into a tea ball and placing that into a teapot. Boiling water should then be poured over the tea ball and allowed to seep for ten minutes. This drink can be sweetened with honey or enjoyed straight.
- For painful joints, topical ginger oil can be rubbed directly into the problem spot. Fresh ginger root may also be placed into a warm poultice or compress and applied to painful areas.
- To relieve cold and flu symptoms, sore throat, headache or menstrual cramps, ginger tea can be enjoyed several times daily.
How to Incorporate Ginger with Cooking
Before cooking with ginger, the skin must be peeled with a pairing knife. The ginger can then be julienned, minced or sliced for dishes. When added at the beginning of cooking, ginger lends a more subtle flavor, whereas adding at the end will impart a stronger taste.
One way to enjoy ginger on warm summer days is by adding it to lemonade. This recipe requires nothing more than grated ginger, lemon juice, honey or cane juice and water. Incorporate all of the ingredients together and serve with ice for a refreshing drink.
For savory dishes, ginger pairs well with rice. Once rice is cooked and fluffed, add grated ginger, sesame seeds and grated lemon peel on top. Another way to enjoy ginger is in salad dressings. A rich and versatile recipe includes ginger, tamari, olive oil and garlic. Ginger can also be sprinkled over vegetables and potatoes for a bolder flavor.
Those persons who enjoy ginger in sweeter dishes can prepare it with orange juice and pureed sweet potatoes for an easy side accompaniment. Grated ginger can also be added to baked apples, peaches and various fruit tarts.
The nutritional value of ginger, which includes potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and vitamin B6, means it can be incorporated with a number of dishes to help boost the immune system and protect against free radical damage. Enthusiasts can thus use it liberally.