Ginger

Ginger is a plant from tropical and subtropical regions such as Jamaica, India, Africa, and China that has a gnarled and bumpy root. This gingerroot has tan-coloured skin and its flesh ranges from pale greenish yellow to ivory in colour. Its flavour is slightly sweet and peppery, and its aroma is pungent and spicy. It is a staple flavour ingredient in the regions from which it comes, and is very versatile, offering a unique spicy flavour to savoury and sweet dishes.

Ginger

Nutrition Notes

Ginger is typically used in small amounts, adding flavour to a variety of foods and beverages. It is also used in relatively small amounts medicinally to reduce symptoms of nausea. In these small amounts, it is not a significant source of most nutrients. But, with its unique flavour, a little goes a long way to making tasty, healthful dishes and it is well suited for low fat, healthful recipes.

Nausea Ginger has been scientifically shown to reduce morning sickness. It's believed that the active ingredients in ginger root, gingerols and shogaols, speed the movement of food through the intestinal tract. Gingerol compounds may also improve appetite and digestion by their ability to reduce stomach acid secretions and increase the release of important digestive aids. (Excerpt from Leslie Beck's Nutrition Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy (Penguin Group Canada, 2004).

Crystallized Ginger is prepared with sugar, and may be eaten in slightly larger quantities than ginger's other forms. The nutrition facts provided by individual manufacturers differ, but you can make your own. The recipe featured and nutritionally analyzed on www.recipezaar.com provides the following per 34 g serving (approx. ¼ cup): 56 calories, 0.25 g fat, 0.6 g protein, 0.7 g fibre, 141 mg potassium, and small amounts of sodium, vitamins B6 and C, magnesium, calcium and iron. While the sugar content of a serving is not provided, it would be quite high, since the ginger is saturated in sugar during cooking and then coated in more sugar.

Varieties

While fresh ginger may be its most popular form, ginger is actually available in 6 forms contributing to its versatility in cooking and baking. Note that the different forms of ginger are not typically interchangeable in recipes - particularly in baking, where ground ginger is needed and fresh ginger would not provide the same results.

Fresh Ginger: Fresh ginger is available in two forms, young and mature. Young ginger is also referred to as green or spring ginger since it is picked and shipped before it is ripened. Young ginger, which does not require peeling since its skin is very thin, has a milder flavour than mature ginger. Mature ginger, the variety that is widely available in the produce section of most grocery stores, has a pale yellow interior and skin that is brown or off-white. It is available in a variety of forms including Jamaican ginger which has pale exterior and is often regarded as the best variety. African and Indian Ginger is also available; it is characterized by a darker exterior.

Dried Ginger: Dried ginger root is usually sold in whole fingers (roots) or slices. It is available with the skin on (ginger will appear black) or peeled (ginger will appear white). This form of ginger is usually soaked in liquid before used in a recipe.

Pickled Ginger: Also called gari or beni shoga in Japan, this form of ginger often accompanies sushi, although it is also eaten to freshen the breath. It is sliced paper thin and has a bright pink or red and is available in most Asian markets.

Preserved Ginger: This form of ginger, which is preserved in a sugar-salt mixture is also known as "stem" ginger. It is often used as a confection or added to desserts. It also available in most Asian markerts.

Crystallized (Candied) Ginger: This form of ginger is cooked in a thick sugar-syrup and coated with granulated sugar. It is often used and desserts, but can also be eaten plain, or in trail mix.

Ground Ginger: Also known as powdered ginger, this dried and ground form of ginger is available in most supermarkets, pre-packaged or in bulk. While ground ginger is the most suitable ginger form for baking, it is also widely used in savoury dishes such as soups, curries and meats. Dried ginger is excellent in fruit compotes, gingerbread, gingersnaps and many spice cookies.

Buying

When buying fresh mature ginger, look for smooth skin (wrinkled skin indicates the root is dry and past its prime). The gingerroot should have a fresh, spicy fragrance.

Storing

Fresh unpeeled gingerroot, tightly wrapped, can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. To use frozen ginger, do not thaw, but slice off a piece of the frozen root and return the rest to the freezer.

Unused peeled ginger can be stored in a screw-top glass jar, covered with dry sherry or madeira, and refrigerated up to 3 months. The wine and ginger flavours will mingle, so that you have a mildly wine-flavoured fresh peeled ginger when you need it, and a gingery wine for cooking.

Preparing

Young fresh ginger, or "spring ginger", has a thin pale skin and requires no peeling. It can be found in most Asian markets in the springtime; it is tender and has a milder flavour than mature gingerroot. Mature fresh ginger's skin is tough and must be carefully peeled away, preserving the delicate flesh just under the surface.

Fresh ginger, much like garlic, mellows with cooking; the two are often used together in savoury dishes and the flavours complement each other nicely.

Eating

There are so many great ginger recipes available - you can pretty much google "ginger" and any other ingredient and come up with several suggestions.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Ginger:

Breakfast

  • Try either of the breakfast recipes we've provided here: Morning Sunshine Muffins or Carribean Minty Ginger Smoothie.
  • Try a touch of dried ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves in your morning baked items, such as quick breads, muffins, even pancakes or waffles.
Lunch
  • Stir-fry, curry, and crockpot dinner dishes make great leftover lunches.
  • Make a thick puréed carrot ginger soup, try the Ginger Noodle Soup recipe, or search for your own gingery soup recipe to pour into a thermos and enjoy a hot lunch on a cold day.
  • Grate ginger or add ginger powder to a homemade salad dressing.
Dinner
  • Marinate and steam fish fillets with a sauce of ginger, soy sauce, cooking wine, sesame oil and mild onions.
  • Serve pickled ginger with sushi.
Snacks
  • Chop crystallized ginger and add to a trail mix. The spice of the ginger will make a unique addition to your favourite nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
  • As a treat, snack on Sweet Ginger Almonds - but stick to about 10-15 nuts: the ¼ cup listed as a serving packs a lot of calories and total fat.
  • For dessert, mix chopped candied ginger with softened ice cream. Refreeze until hard (about an hour), and serve topped with a little more candied ginger. This treat goes well with crisp cookies and/or fresh fruit.

Did You Know?

While most of us are familiar with ginger ale, a carbonated, ginger-flavoured soft drink, you may not have tried ginger beer. This ginger-flavoured beverage is also carbonated, but has a stronger ginger flavour and comes in both alcoholic and nonalcoholic forms. Ginger beer is an integral ingredient in the mixed drink, the Moscow Mule.

More Information