What is ginger, and where does it come from?
The ginger that we see in grocery stores comes from the root of a flowering plant that originated in Southeast Asia. It’s in the same family as turmeric and cardamom and is used widely around the world. The bright, spicy flavour of ginger is perfect in so many dishes, both sweet and savoury, and in beverages as well. It’s also used as a natural remedy for various ailments.
Health benefits of ginger.
Ginger has many health benefits, and it has been used medicinally since ancient times. Gingerol is the active compound—found in the highest quantities when ginger is fresh—and is responsible for most of ginger’s health benefits. Here are some of the positive effects that ginger can have:
- Helps with digestion.
- Combats nausea.
- Lowers the risk of colon cancer.
- Promotes perspiration.
- Aids respiration.
- Relieves pain, including menstrual pain.
- Inhibits the growth of bacteria.
- Used topically to treat burns and repel mosquitoes.
Buying and storing ginger.
Ginger comes in many different forms, and most are available at regular grocery stores. You can buy the roots fresh in the produce section, and you can also purchase pure ginger dried, crushed, or in powdered forms.
Ginger can also be found processed in many different ways. Pickled ginger, like what you find in sushi restaurants, can be found in grocery stores or made at home. You can also buy ginger tea, candied ginger, ginger beer, ginger oil, and black ginger.
When buying fresh ginger, seek out smooth, plump roots that don’t look dried up and wrinkled at the ends. You can use the edge of a spoon to peel fresh ginger—just scrape the spoon along the side, and the skin comes off easily.
Store fresh ginger in the freezer. You can grate the frozen root into smoothies, salad dressings, stir-fries, whatever you want, and then pop it back into the freezer for next time.
Ways to incorporate ginger into your foods and drinks.
The possible health benefits of ginger are an added bonus; ginger, in all forms, is so versatile and adds amazing flavour to whatever you add it to. Here are some ways to add ginger into your kitchen repertoire:
Whether or not you’re feeling under the weather, you can steep chunks of fresh ginger in boiling water to make a delicious ginger tea. Ginger in tea can help you receive many of the health benefits outlined above. Experiment by adding different kinds of citrus (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit), sweetener (maple syrup, agave), spices (turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon), and fresh herbs (basil, mint, cilantro, thyme). Serve hot, over ice, or with frozen fruit garnishes. You can also buy bagged ginger tea and spruce it up any way you’d like.
Tea isn’t the only way to use ginger in beverages. Adding fresh ginger to your juicer, if you have one, sends the flavour over-the-top. Try it with beet and apple, or your favourite green combo. Look online and experiment with different homemade ginger ale recipes. You can make a ginger simple syrup and use it to spruce up any beverage. Ginger also adds some warming bite to smoothies.
Gingerbread isn’t the only baked good where ginger is the star—although fresh gingerbread is a fan favourite. There are so many recipes for different cakes and cookies where ginger is the star. You can also try adding some to places you wouldn’t usually find it, like puddings, fruit crisps, or pies. If you love the flavour of ginger, it’s hard to go wrong. Candied ginger can be used in baked goods, just like dried fruits. How about some candied ginger and chocolate chip cookies?
Salad dressings and marinades.
If you always keep some fresh ginger root in your freezer, you’ll have it on-hand to add to salad dressings and marinades. You can grate it, frozen, into whatever you’re using it in—no need to thaw or do anything else with it. A microplane works well if you want the fibres to disappear into whatever your making. Try adding olive oil, cider vinegar, tamari, fresh ginger, chopped fresh garlic, grainy mustard, and a touch of maple syrup into a jar. Shake it up and pour it over your favourite green salad, or try this tried-and-true combo: greens, cilantro, fresh mango, and cucumber.
Any stir-fry or saucy dish.
You can also grate frozen ginger into whatever you have sizzling or simmering in your pot. Stir-fries, curries, fruit compotes; ginger pairs well with other bright flavours and adds incomparable zest.
Ginger adds extra comfort to soups. You can add it to clear and brothy soups for an extra punch of warmth. You can also add it to thick, pureed vegetable soups—try it in pumpkin or other squash soups with coconut milk, lime, and some cayenne for extra heat.
Pickled ginger isn’t just for sushi, although it’s great with that, too. You can buy pickled ginger or try making it yourself. When buying it, look out for too many additives—the pink versions especially. Use pickled ginger as a side dish with pretty much anything. Try adding it to a sandwich, inside of a fresh roll, or on top of a rice dish.
Ginger is great to have on hand in different forms. Its zesty, flavourful heat is one-of-a-kind, and it’s healthy to boot. Once you start adding it to various dishes, you’ll wonder what you ever did without it.