This week we have a guest post from our expert herbologist, author Anke Bialas. Read more about Anke and her brilliant Herbology At Home series of guides at the end of this post.
Originally from Asia, warming ginger is the perfect ingredient to add to our winter meals. For many of us, a spicy hint of ginger brings comforting memories of grandmother’s favourite puddings or that amazing trip to Thailand.
Ginger is a really decorative, exotic plant that you can easily grow at home. Only the root* is used in cooking and there are a few other culinary superstars that belong to the ginger family, such as galangal, cardamom and turmeric. If you have a nice piece of organic ginger left over at home, just bury it in moist, well drained soil that has plenty of organic matter in it and watch it take off. It grows to about 1 – 1.2 m tall and if the plant gets a bit ‘clumpy’, take it up, divide and replant. When mature, you just lift up the root and harvest that wonderfully fragrant spice you grew yourself.
An essential ingredient to curries from many different countries, ginger is also enjoyed in soups, pickled, and made into tea, ginger beer, ginger wine, gingerbread and so much more. Well known for its tummy calming properties it is often used to ease travel and morning sickness. The warming actions of ginger induce sweating which is very useful when treating a cold or flu.
Nutritional Value (100g of ginger)
- Calories : 80
- Fat: 0.75
- Carbohydrates: 17.77
- Fibres: 2
- Protein: 1.82
- Cholesterol: 0
Ginger is available all year round with April to September being the actual prime season.
To get the best, look for smooth skin. Wrinkled skin is a sign of possible dry flesh underneath. Large ‘hands’ can be broken into smaller segments without any harm.
Peel, slice, grate or julienne and when you are done you can store it in the fridge or in the freezer if you don’t think you’ll be using it any time soon.
Fresh ginger contains an enzyme which breaks down protein. This means that even a tiny amount of ginger in a gelatine based dish will cause it not to set. Since this enzyme is heat sensitive you can get around this by first blanching the fresh ginger or by using crystallised ginger instead.
*Ginger is actually not a root but a rhizome, which is an underground stem of a plant.