Ginger an aromatic, pungent and spicy underground rhizome of the ginger plant Zingiber officinale having a firm and striated texture. The plant’s botanical name is thought to be derived from its Sanskrit name “singabera” which means “horn shaped,” a physical characteristic that ginger reflects. It is from the Zingiberaceae family and other notable members of this family are the turmeric, cardamom and galangal.
Cultivation of ginger began in South Asia and spread to East Africa and the Carribbean. The ginger can be consumed whole as a delicacy, medicine or spice. It is sometimes also called the root ginger. The English name ginger comes from the French word gingembre but ultimately the origin is from the Tamil word inji ver. The botanical term for root in Tamil is ver, hence inji root or inji ver.
Native to southeastern Asia, the cuisines still feature this wonderfully spicy herb and now ginger has been renowned for millennia in many areas throughout the world. Ginger is prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties which are being mentioned in the ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings. Spanish explorers introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting the precious herb back to Europe. Today, Jamaica, India, Fiji, Indonesia and Australia are the top commercial producers of ginger.
Ginger has an important place in the Indian and Chinese cuisines as its aromatic, pungent and spicy and this adds a special flavor and zest to most of the Asian stir fries and vegetable dishes. The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin. The pungent taste of ginger is due to nonvolatile phenylpropanoid-derived compounds, particularly gingerols and shogaols, which form from gingerols when ginger is dried or cooked.
Young ginger roots are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can also be added in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey is often added. Mature ginger roots are fibrous and nearly dry. The juice from old ginger roots is extremely strong, and is often used as a spice in Indian recipes, and is a quintessential ingredient of Chinese, Japanese and many South Asian cuisines for flavoring dishes such as seafood or meat and vegetarian cuisine. Ginger also acts as a useful food preservative. Ginger can either be used fresh or dried. Dried ginger powder is typically used as flavorings for gingerbread, cookies, crackers, cakes, ginger ale and ginger beer.
In India, Ginger is called by various names regionally like Adrak (in Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu), Allam (in Telugu), Inji (in Tamil), Alay (Marathi) etc. Fresh ginger is one of the main spices used for making pulses and lentils curry and other vegetable preparations. Fresh, as well as dried, ginger is used to spice tea and coffee, especially in winter.
Historically the medical form of ginger was called the Jamaica ginger and was classified as stimulant and carminative used frequently for dyspepsia, gastroparesis. Ginger has been found effective in multiple studies for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy. Ginger is a safe remedy for nausea relief during pregnancy. Tea brewed from ginger is a folk remedy for colds. In India, ginger is applied as a paste to the temples to relieve headache, and consumed when suffering from the common cold. Ginger with lemon and black salt is also used for nausea.
Ginger is native to India and China. It takes its name from the Sanskrit word stringa-vera, which means “with a body like a horn”, as in antlers. Ginger has been important in Chinese medicine for many centuries, and is mentioned in the writings of Confucius. It is also named in the Koran, the sacred book of the Moslems, indicating it was known in Arab countries as far back as 650 A.D. It was one of the earliest spices known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century. In English pubs and taverns in the nineteenth century, barkeepers put out small containers of ground ginger, for people to sprinkle into their beer — the origin of ginger ale.
Ginger is almost used in most of the Asian cooking like used fresh, minced, crushed or sliced. It is also used in making pickles, chutneys and curry paste. Tender young ginger can be sliced and eaten as a salad. Ginger is also used in puddings, jams, preserves and in some drinks like ginger beer, ginger wine and tea. Pickled ginger is a delicious accompaniment to satays and a colorful garnish to many Chinese dishes.
Ginger is most commonly known for its effectiveness as a digestive aid. Ginger helps relieve indigestion, gas pains, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties help relieve pain and reduce inflammation associated with arthritis, rheumatism and muscle spasms. Ginger’s therapeutic properties effectively stimulate circulation of the blood, removing toxins from the body, cleansing the bowels and kidneys, and nourishing the skin. Other uses for Ginger Root include the treatment of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory problems by loosening and expelling phlegm from the lungs.
Ginger is a good source of potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and vitamin B6. Ginger tea is said to be the excellent stress buster and has amazing refreshing properties. It is also a natural mouth freshener.
The nutritional values per 100 g of ginger are:
Calories: 172.2 kJ calories
Protein: 1.3 grams
Carbohydrate: 7.6 g
Fat: 0.6 g
Vitamin A: 28 mg
Dietary fiber: 2.7 g
Vitamin B1: 0.02 mg
Carotene: 170 mg
Vitamin C: 4 mg
Vitamin B2: 0.03 mg
Niacin: 0.8 mg
Iron: 1.4 mg
Calcium: 27 mg
Phosphorus: 25 mg
Zinc: 0.34 mg
Sodium: 14.9 mg