I suppose you could see the ginger rhizome in the photo above as a bit homely, but knowing ginger’s numerous uses, both culinary and medicinal, I see it as beautiful. Ginger, a cousin of turmeric, cardamom and galangal, grows in fertile, tropical soil, especially in India, China, Fiji and Indonesia. Not only has ginger been vital in the traditional medicines of East Asian, Indian and Arabic cultures since ancient times, its healing properties have been confirmed in double-blind, controlled studies, in the relief of pain and swelling caused by osteoarthritis, for example. Among other medicinal uses are relief of digestive system upsets, treatment of respiratory problems, and in breaking fevers. Ginger is thought to stimulate blood circulation, cleanse bowels and kidneys and to nourish the skin (read in more depth about ginger’s medicinal uses here, with information about dosages, here). Ginger as a medicinal is available in extracts, tinctures, capsules and oils, but it’s such a versatile and useful plant, why not cook with it and enjoy the lively, pungent taste of fresh ginger? After the jump, I suggest numerous ways to incorporate ginger into your daily cooking…
Fresh ginger in the markets comes two ways: 1) Young ginger is tender, juicy, has little-to-no skin, is easy to grate and doesn’t need to be peeled. 2) Mature ginger has a tan-to-golden-brown skin, is firmer, less moist, and sometimes needs to be peeled, depending on how you will use it. Mature ginger is available year around and is less expensive; young ginger is available intermittently and can be pricy.
IDEAS FOR ADDING FRESH GINGER TO YOUR COOKING:
1.) Salad dressing–cut a 3/4-inch piece of ginger, purée in a blender with your other dressing ingredients.
2.) Dipping sauces–dilute soy sauce with an equal quantity of water, grate a little ginger, and squeeze out the ginger juice into the soy sauce-water mixture. Taste and adjust by adding more ginger or soy sauce. Great for tofu, tempura, fish, etc.
3.) Beverages, both hot and cold–finely grate a small piece of ginger. Squeeze out the juice (to taste) into lemonade, apple juice, green tea, etc.
4.) Ginger tea–simmer a few slices of ginger in 4 cups of water, ten minutes or longer depending on how strong you want the tea to be. Or for a more delicate tea, grate ginger and squeeze the juice into hot water.
5.) Grains and grain soups–add grated or small julienned pieces of peeled ginger to rice or other grains before cooking. My recipe for Daikon-Ginger-Brown Rice Congee is here.
6.) Sauces and soups–make a broth with dried shiitake mushrooms, water, soy sauce, and julienned ginger pieces. Simmer briefly, then thicken with kuzu, arrowroot or cornstarch. My recipe for Gingery Chinese Style Turnip and Turnip Greens Soup is here.
8.) Desserts–add finely-grated fresh ginger to any recipe which calls for powered, dried ginger. My gingerbread cake recipe is here.