Ginger is a rhizome – a horizontal stem of a plant found underground and usually has roots and shoots. Ginger is native to India which produces 30% of the world’s supply and is the global leader in its production. It is used in cuisines all around the world and in all types of food and drinks including savoury and sweet dishes, baked goods and confectionary, teas, coffees and beer.
Types of Ginger
Ginger comes in various forms. Each variety differs in taste, aroma and usage. Below are the most common types of ginger used in Indian cooking:
Whole raw roots (fresh ginger) – flesh is pale yellow in appearance and the skin slightly darker. It is picked when the plants’ stalks have wilted and roots are at their ripest (and flavour and aroma at their strongest).
Whole fresh roots – is picked when the plant is still very young and the skin still green.
Dried roots – Sold whole or sliced and appears almost black with the skin on and has a white interior when peeled.
Powder – made from dried root ginger
Cooking With Ginger
Ginger is essential to Asian cooking. Used fresh it can be sliced, crushed or in curry paste and dried in curry powder. It is a main ingredient for pulse, lentil and vegetable curries and in Pakistan is particularly popular finely chopped or crushed into a paste for chicken and meat based curries. It is predominantly found in Karahi dishes and complement’s cauliflower and potatoes especially well.
Fresh ginger is used raw and is cooked in with a dishes’ other ingredients. Dried ginger is cracked open to release its flavours which are infused in the cooking process. It is removed prior to serving. Ginger is sometimes shaved and used as a garnish. All types of ginger need to be stored in air-tight containers to preserve the flavour.
Ginger has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It has been brewed in teas to relieve the symptoms of the common cold, coughs and congestion. It was originally added to ale and beer to help settle stomachs, resulting in the ginger ales and beers we still drink today.
It is said to be effective in treating nausea from motion sickness and is a safe herbal remedy for pregnant women to relieve morning sickness. It also eases queasiness felt by patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Ginger can help decrease pain from arthritis and has been found to have blood thinning and cholesterol lowering properties. It can be successful in treating heart disease, diabetes and reduces anxiety.
As well as its many positive uses, ginger can (in some extremely rare cases) cause heartburn, bloating, gas, belching and nausea. Those with ulcers, bowel disease and blocked intestines can react badly to large quantities of ginger and should avoid it where possible.