Hippocrates once said, “Let food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” These wise words of wisdom are no secret to many ancient traditions of healing. In fact, there are plenty of age-old references to many common “pantry items” such as herbs and spices for supporting health, none of which is better known than ginger. This tropical aromatic rhizome (an underground stem that sends out roots and shoots from its nodes) was famous in ancient and modern time, and used as a delicious addition to Asian and Indian dishes, desserts, beverages, candies, teas and natural health supplements.
Ginger thrives in warm, tropical weather. Currently it is cultivated in India, China, West Africa, the West Indies, Jamaica, the Caribbean, and here at home in Hawaii, Florida and Texas. It’s a rare person who is not familiar with its pungent, sweet, spicy taste and earthy, woody appearance and fragrance.
Used by ancient peoples as a method of preserving food, ginger was also used to support healthy digestion, and in fact, it still is! As a child, I remember my parents giving us ginger ale if we felt queasy or nauseous. Ginger can be helpful for motion sickness, too. Ginger chews are great to take along when travelling. Currently, ginger is being studied for possible benefits on heart health. The active components of ginger are phenols (chemical compounds found in plants) called gingerols and shogaols. You can find ginger in tea and other beverages; it’s also found preserved, pickled, candied, crystallized, fresh, dried, and encapsulated!
Remember, when it comes to cooking with ginger, you can use fresh chopped or grated (be sure to peel it first), dried powdered, candied or crystallized. All are delicious, and many recipes combine more than one variety. Here are some favorite ginger ideas:
- Grate or chop fresh ginger and add to stir-fries, curries, soups and stews such as this Ethiopian Style Chickpea Stew.
- Stir a bit of dried powdered ginger or grated fresh ginger in to hot breakfast cereal, such as oatmeal or cream of wheat or rice.
- Add grated fresh ginger to salsa. Great with fruit salsa! Try this recipe for Grilled Wild Alaska Salmon with Strawberry-Cucumber Salsa.
- Add ginger powder to homemade granola.
- Add fresh grated ginger to salad dressings. You will love our recipe for Asian Greens Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing and our recipe for Tempeh and Vegetable Salad with Miso Tahini dressing.
- Chop crystallized ginger and add to cakes, pies, cookies, muffins, cupcakes, and even shortbread. We’ve added both dried and crystallized ginger to this delicious Spiced Apple Pie with Cranberries and Currants.
- Stir ginger into sauces, including applesauce, cranberry sauce, jams, jellies and spreads. Here is a recipe for Ginger Applesauce. And here is a recipe for Ginger-Scented Orange Marmalade.
- Make a fresh sparkling ginger drink by grating fresh ginger, stir in a teaspoon of raw honey, pour in sparking water, add a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice. Drink up!
- Add fresh grated ginger or a pinch of ginger powder to orange juice or pineapple juice.
- Add fresh or dried ginger to soy sauce for a dipping sauce or for a favorite recipe.
- Make tea! Try this wonderful, relaxing Homemade Dried Fruit and Herb Tea.
- Ginger is a perfect spice for tofu or tempeh. I love this recipe for Gingery Garlicky Tempeh.
- Be sure to add dried or fresh ginger to hot chocolate or carob. Here is a recipe for Hot Spiced Carob.
- Add ginger to just about any marinade or rub it directly onto steak, chicken or chops before cooking. This recipe for Flavors of India Roasted Chicken does just that!
- There are always Classic Gingerbread Cookies!
- For the occasional dessert, you can’t beat a delicious, spicy, warm gingerbread. Here are two favorites: Spiced Gingerbread with Coffee and Molasses and Apple Almond Gingerbread.
If you are not used to spicy foods, go easy with ginger at first. Gradually build up to your personal liking.
Are you a ginger groupie? Got a favorite recipe, tea or medicinal use? Let me know!