Ginger is a well loved, tried and tested flavoursome spice. It is zingy and warming, with a distinctive zesty flavour and aroma. It can also turn salads, desserts, bakes and juices into delicious, lively culinary delights. No matter how you enjoy ginger, it’s a great spice to have on hand. You may use it to add spice to a meal or steeped in a hot tea, but ginger has multiple health benefits too. In herbal medicine, ginger is regarded as an excellent carminative. Its medicinal properties have been valued and used throughout the ages.
Ginger has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices. Native to South-east Asia, India and China, ginger has been an integral component of the region’s diet and valued for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties for thousands of years. Indians and Chinese are believed to have produced ginger as a tonic root for over 5000 years to treat many ailments, in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine. By the 1st century, traders had taken ginger into the Mediterranean regions. The Romans first imported ginger from China. Eventually, it became a popular spice in Rome. It was commonly used to make delicacy sweets in the medieval times.
Queen Elizabeth I of England is credited with the invention of the gingerbread man, which became a traditional Christmas treat.
Today, ginger is easily accessible in local grocery stores and throughout markets, but back in the 14th century it cost about the same amount as a live sheep or piece of livestock! It is reported that 100,000 tons of gingers are annually produced. The top commercial producers of ginger now include Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia.
Health benefits of ginger
Ginger helps increase the body’s ability to empty food from the stomach more quickly - known as gastric emptying. With this increased motility in the digestive system, it’s less likely that heartburn or indigestion will occur.
Here are a few quick tips on how to incorporate ginger into your diet:
Fresh ginger v/s ground ginger:
Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over dried - it is superior in flavour and contains higher levels of Gingerol. Fresh ginger has a stronger aroma compared to ground ginger. This characteristic comes from the essential oils present in ginger, which are lost if it is processed and stored. The taste that ginger imparts to a dish also depends upon when it is added during the cooking process. Added at the beginning, it will lend a subtle flavour, while added near the end, it will deliver a more pungent taste. Fresh ginger can be purchased in most supermarkets, and the mature roots have a tough skin that requires peeling. Fresh ginger can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks if left unpeeled.
Nothing beats cold in the winter like a piping hot cup of ginger tea. With its high levels of Vitamin C, magnesium and other minerals, ginger root is extremely beneficial for health.
Once made into tea, you can add peppermint, honey or lemon to mask the taste of the ginger.
Ginger tea is great to drink when you feel a cold coming on. It’s a diaphoretic tea, meaning it will warm you from the inside and promote perspiration - so it’s just as good when you simply need to warm up.
Make your own ginger tea
To make ginger tea at home, simply slice 20-40 g of fresh ginger root and steep in a cup of boiling water. Allow the ginger to steep in hot water for 10 minutes. You can add a slice of lemon or a drop of honey to improve flavour. If it tastes too strong or spicy, you can simply dilute it with more hot water and honey. You can drink ginger tea two to three times a day, especially before meals, if you want to stimulate digestion.