FOR WELL over 5,000 years ginger has been prized as much for its medicinal properties as for its culinary value. Results of some modern medical research show that ancient beliefs about the preventive and curative powers of ginger are valid. References to ginger as a medicine and a spice appear in ancient Chinese and Sanskrit writings, and in surviving Persian, Arabic, Greek and Roman texts. Medieval writings from many European countries indicate that ginger was a standard ingredient in recipes for the kitchen.

Ginger may be used in various forms such as dried whole root, powdered ginger, ginger essence, ginger oil, preserved ginger, (young tender roots are harvested at about six months, cooked whole or in pieces and steeped in sugar syrup for a number of days before being packed), crystallised ginger, pickled ginger (thinly sliced ginger preserved in vinegar. The best known types being sushi ginger which is pickled in rice vinegar) and green ginger (a description of fresh ginger but also used to describe sliced fresh ginger pickled in brine).

While buying ginger look for one with a smooth, unwrinkled skin. Wrinkles mean that the ginger has begun to dry out and it may be woody inside. If you see pink tips, you know the ginger is young and fresh. Mature ginger is fine, but it has a stronger flavour and you may wish to use less than a recipe calls for.

Ginger may be used to cure ailments such as common colds where the juice of ginger is mixed with equal quantity of honey and brought to a boil over a low heat. Then add a few fresh basil leaves When the mixture turns slightly syrupy, remove from flame and allow to cool before consuming it. It may be used to cure digestive disorders such as loss of appetite. A piece of ginger eaten with a little rock-salt (kala namak) with or after meals aids digestion. Ginger is a remedy par excellence for the relief of nausea and motion sickness.

There are some principal varieties of ginger such as the Indian ginger where the whole hands are light yellow in colour and have a subtle, lemon-like undertone in aroma and flavour. The Chinese ginger tends to be whiter in colour than the Indian, somewhat more fibrous, and a little more bitter in flavour. The Jamaican ginger has traditionally been recognised as premier among gingers, for the quality of its flavour, oil content and appearance.

Ginger is delicious in many savoury dishes such as soups, curries and meats, and indispensable in sweets like gingerbreads and gingersnaps and many spice cookies. Ginger is the flavour that has long given the popular beverages ginger ale and ginger beer their claim to fame. Ginger spells freshness in every cuisine of the world.


Executive Chef, Taj Krishna

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