Sunday, 10 February 2013

Extolling the health benefits of Ginger

Ginger.  What is so special about ginger that makes people excited when I mention I have started this blog.  I get responses like "Oh I LOVE ginger"; "I always cook with ginger" and "Ginger is fantastic".  Which got me thinking, Why?  What is so special about ginger?

Well, I have done a little bit of research (thanks very much, Wikipedia!) and I would like to take a few moments to extoll the greatness of the ginger.

As you may know, ginger is the root of the plant.  It doesn't look much, being a light brown and bulbous thing with knobs sticking out all over it.  But as we all know, it's not what you look like, but what is on the inside that counts.  To be honest, ginger could be considered the ugly duckling.  But cut it open or grate it, and mmmmm!  It smells wonderful.

Ginger is part of the same family as cardamom (another wonderful, versatile spice) and turmeric.  Cultivation began in South Asia and spread to East Africa and the Caribbean.

What are some ways I can use Ginger?
Ginger is very versatile.  It can be used in drinks:  you can steep it in hot water to make tea,  (ginger and lemon with a little honey is wonderful for colds) or it can be juiced.  It can also be made into ginger wine, ginger liquor, ginger beer, and ginger ale.  You can also make ginger syrup to add to drinks (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic).  Ginger can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, and it comes in different forms - as whole, fresh root; or dried and powdered; pickled; ground into a paste; or crystallised (where it has been cooked in sugar until soft).

What is it good for?
Ginger is known for its therapeutic qualities, especially gastrointestinal distress.  It has a very long tradition of being used to treat nausea, sea-sickness, dizziness, vomiting and cold sweating.  It helps to relieve the nauseous effects of morning sickness during pregnancy (although some warn against taking ginger during pregnancy due to possibly containing a teratogen (causing deformities), and one study linked ginger to miscarriage within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but other studies have shown no adverse affects of ginger on the unborn fetus during pregnancy).

Ginger beer is often drunk to help settle the stomach.  Ginger helps to relieve colic, gas, diarrhea and constipation.

Ginger is also used as a pain relief for arthritis, muscle soreness, menstrual cramps, upper respiratory tract problems, coughing and bronchitis.    

Who knew that this little root could be used to treat so many ailments, and still taste so good?

What is the best way to store Ginger?
Ginger will last in the fridge for up to 3 weeks if it is unpeeled and tightly wrapped.  Or put it into a plastic bag in the freezer for up to 6 months.  Pull it out when required and grate it (no peeling required).

The equivalent of 1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger is 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger.

Ginger is a good friend and matches well with:
carrots; chocolate; fruit; ice cream; melon; onions; pumpkin; rice; tomatoes; pork; chicken; and ham.

Well, ginger has certainly proved it is versatile and can be used in many different ways in the kitchen.  I hope this inspires you to include a little bit of ginger in your day!


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