Ginger, or Zingiber officinale, is a rhizome that is native to India and China — and it is the most common spice used in those countries, probably after salt and turmeric. It is mentioned in the writings of Confucius in China. In India, it has been written about in Buddhist texts from the 5th century AD, and by the Chinese scholar Xuan Zang in the 7th century AD. Ship loads of ginger were exported to Europe by the Portuguese in India from the mid-15th century [Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, by K.T. Achaya].
Ginger was used in food and for medicinal purposes in Southern Europe and the Middle East, well before Roman times. The Spanish had set up ginger plantations in the West Indies to export to Europe [Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices & Flavorings, by Elisabeth L. Ortiz].
Ginger has a spicy and sharp flavour, and an almost floral fragrance, that lends zest to the taste of food — both savoury and sweet. Fresh green ginger is higher on the fragrance and milder taste-wise; while dried ginger is sharp and spicy in its flavour and has a more mellow fragrance. Fresh ginger is peeled and chopped, julliened, grated or ground to add to dishes, while dried ginger is always used in a powder form.
Ginger is also traditionally pickled or candied. In India, ginger slivers are dried in salt and used to treat indigestion, nausea or coughs. Pickled ginger with chillies, spices and oil is another popular preparation. Dried ginger is called sonth in India and is added to many ready-made curry powders and masalas. In Japan, sushi and other dishes are eaten as gari or the pink pickled ginger slices. Ginger is used variously in candies, chutneys, jams and marmalades all over the world.
- Ginger is used to counter nausea — just suck on ginger slivers with a bit of salt to fight car sickness and nausea.
- Ginger oil used for massage can help relieve painful arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties .
References and Useful Websites
- Historical Dictionary of Indian Food, by K.T. Achaya
- Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices & Flavorings, by Elisabeth L. Ortiz