Rhizomes [Khing (Thai); Saenggang (Korea); Inji (Tamil, Malaysian); Aadu (Gujarati), Alay (Marathi); Adrak (Hindi, Urdu); Zanjabil (Arabic); Zingiber officinale]

Originally from South or Southeast Asia, ginger is far and away the most used of the Zingiberaceae family rhizomes. The top ten producers ship more than a million and a half tons (US) annually, with India China and Indonesia the major producers. Nigeria is the only major producer outside Asia. Available fresh, dried and ground, ginger is now important in every major cuisine worldwide. The photo specimen was 7-1/2 inches long and weighed 12 ounces, a small part of a ginger "reef". Reefs can easily exceed 30 pounds.

Ginger is also important in both formal and folk medicine, particularly for nausea and stomach upset. It has been shown effective against motion sickness, morning sickness and nausea from chemotherapy, but not for postoperative nausea. It is also used as a flavoring to cover medicinal tastes.

More on Gingers.

  • China:   Fresh ginger is often used in fish dishes to reduce the "fishiness". It is also candied for use as a sweet, and a beverage is made for the treatment of colds. Dried and ground ginger are also used depending on the region.
  • India:   Fresh ginger is one of the most important flavorings used in cooking curries and vegetables. It is particularly liked with lentils and other pulses. In Southern India ginger is widely used to make candy and young ginger is pickled. Dried and powdered ginger is also used in masalas (spice mixes) but rarely in recipes. Medicinally it is used to treat colds, generally as a tea.
  • Africa (Sub-Saharan):   As with many other foods and spicings, fresh ginger follows Indian practice and is an essential flavoring.
  • Japan:   Fresh ginger is often grated and used as a flavorful garnish on tofu, noodles and other dishes. Fresh ginger is pickled in two forms: Gari, a light pink form made from young ginger is served in sushi bars; Beni shoga, a deep red form is used as a condiment and toping on many dishes. Dried ginger is very rarely used.
  • Korea:   Finely chopped or grated fresh ginger is an important flavoring ingredient in kimchi (Korean sauerkraut) and is also widely used in general cooking.
  • Europe   The Romans imported fresh ginger by the shipload as a favored flavoring ingredient. Since the fall of the Empire it has been used mostly in powdered form for baking, and as a flavoring in beverages.
  • North America   Until recently, usage was similar to Europe, but today, with wholesale adoption of ethnic cuisines, fresh ginger is common even in supermarkets. Here in Southern California, any self respecting produce market has 20 to 50 pounds on display, and it sells rapidly. Medicinally it is used to treat nausea.
  • Southeast Asia:   Ginger is one of the most important ingredients in an endless number of dishes. Medicinally, it is used sweetened with palm sap (palm sugar) as a preventive and treatment for colds and flu.
  • Middle East / North Africa   Dried ginger powder is used as a flavoring in tea.

Fresh Ginger

Buying & Storing:   Look for rhizomes that are smooth and very firm rather than wrinkled, and which are free of bruises or dark spots. Best to buy one large piece rather than several small ones to minimize the cut or broken area.

Most instructions have you wrap ginger in dry toweling and store it in the refrigerator in a paper bag - but I use it much too frequently to be all the time unwrapping and wrapping. I have found it keeps very well in a short plastic bag set in a tray in the refrigerator door with the top left wide open. In a closed bag it will soon go to mold.

Cooking:   Ginger is used sliced (in soups and stews - to be removed (or not) before serving), chopped fine (in stir fries, curries and the like) and grated. Ginger Juice is called for in some recipes and is made by grating ginger and wringing the juice out by wrapping it tightly in a cloth.

Most recipes call for peeling ginger but this is not necessary. My practice, and the practice of a number of chefs, is to shave off the gnarly parts and leave most of the skin on. Some Southeast Asian recipes actually call for the skin to be left on because much of the flavor is close under the skin.

When preparing for most uses, cut slices crosswise as thin as you can to break the fibers. Then lay out the slices in an overlapping stack and cut into narrow slivers. Sometimes these are used as is, but otherwise bunch them up and cut into tiny pieces, then chop further or mash in a mortar as appropriate for the recipe. Never slice ginger lengthwise.

Do not attempt to used dried ginger in recipes calling for fresh - it just isn't the same thing at all.

Dried & Powdered Ginger

Powdered ginger is familiar in North America and Europe as an ingredient in many baked goods, ginger bread for example. It is widely used in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines and in India for some specialty dishes and as an ingredient in masalas (spice powders).

Fresh ginger can not be used as a substitute for dried - it just isn't the same thing at all.

Young Ginger   -   Rhizomes [Stem ginger, Green ginger, Pink ginger, New ginger, Spring ginger, Zingiber officinale]

This is regular ginger when new sections of rhizome have formed and sprouted leaf stems. It is juicier and much milder than older ginger and has a tender skin that is generally not peeled. It is seasonal so not always available. Ginger in this state of growth is often pickled, particularly in Southeastern India. It is often called for in Southeast Asian recipes and is preferred for general cooking in Cambodia.

This ginger, lightly pickled and dyed a light pink, is the ginger served with sushi and sashimi in Japanese restaurants.

Buying:   This ginger is now easy to find in Asian markets that serve a significant Southeast Asian community, at least here in Southern California. It is stored the same as regular ginger but is much more perishable, so should be used soon after purchase.

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