Everything You Need To Know About Ginger
Most people have tasted ginger in one form or another at some point in their lives, but far fewer know exactly what ginger is, where it comes from, and the excellent health benefits associated with eating it.
What Is Ginger?
The ginger that we eat is the rhizome of Zingiber officinale, a flowering perennial plant native to China and Southeast Asia. At first glance, Zingiber officinale looks a lot like any other tropical leafy plant, that is, until you look beneath the soil’s surface. Hiding just out of sight, Zingiber officinale produces a mass of tangled rooty rhizomes, which are responsible for sending out new roots and creating new plants.
Where Does Ginger Come From?
The Zingiber officinale plant is native to China and Southeast Asia but quickly spread to India and then became domesticated throughout the wider Indo-Pacific. Today, ginger is grown all over the world, but China remains the single largest producer. Although it's possible to grow ginger in cooler climates, the Zingiber officinale plant favors warm temperatures of around 30-35°C, with high levels of humidity and free-draining soil.
Although ginger is a relatively new ingredient to the western world, it has a long and rich history, dating back many centuries and features in several famous historical texts. The oldest written record featuring ginger is a passage by the Chinese philosopher and politician Confucius. It was written in China sometime between 475-221BC! In this text, Confucius admits to eating ginger with every one of his meals - he was clearly aware of its medicinal powers.
How Is Ginger Grown?
Although ginger may look out of this world, it’s grown like many other crops. Farmers begin by preparing their soil, ensuring that it is fertilized, loose, and well aerated to facilitate the growth of large and juicy ginger rhizomes. When their fields are ready, ginger is planted by placing pieces of the ginger rhizome into the soil. Each piece of ginger rhizome will sprout shoots and roots to create an entirely new ginger plant. After planting, it takes approximately six months for a new ginger plant to grow and reach a level of maturity where it produces its own rhizomes for harvesting. Ginger sold as fresh ginger tends to be harvested at this young age while the rhizomes are still tender, whereas ginger that is destined to be dried and ground into a powder is left to mature for a few months longer, allowing the rhizomes to grow larger.
Is Ginger Actually Good For You?
Aside from being delicious, ginger also has a long medicinal history and features heavily in both Traditional and Ancient Chinese Medicine. Today, ginger is still prescribed by holistic practitioners and is also sold as a supplement in many health-food stores. But is it actually good for you?
The short answer is yes!
Here’s a little more information about some of the key health benefits associated with eating ginger.
Ginger Is Great For Nausea
Ginger is famous as an anti-sickness remedy, helping to alleviate nausea and soothe even the most unsettled stomach. Just 1-1.5 grams of dried ginger has been proven to significantly reduce feelings of sicknesses, including nausea caused by chemotherapy and pregnancy. For women suffering from morning sickness at the beginning of their pregnancy, ginger is often suggested as a safe and effective alternative to anti-sickness medications.
Ginger Is An Anti-Inflammatory
Another widespread medicinal use for ginger is as an anti-inflammatory. Even in small doses, ginger has proven to be effective at lowering inflammation levels and reducing pain in people with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Ginger oil or lotion can also be applied topically to an inflamed area.
Ginger Is Good For Your Heart
Eating ginger regularly can significantly impact your overall cholesterol levels while also reducing the amount of bad LDL cholesterol in your blood. This can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, which remains the leading cause of death in the United States.
Ginger Can Help To Lower Blood Sugar Levels,
For people with diabetes, ginger has also proven effective at lowering blood sugar levels. One study, in particular, found that eating just 2 grams of ginger per day was able to reduce the fasting blood sugar levels of participants by 12%!
Ginger Is An Effective Pain Medication
Studies have shown a 250mg ginger supplement to be as effective at reducing menstrual pain levels as both ibuprofen and mefenamic acid. Women should take 250mg of ginger a day for the first three days of their period for maximum benefits.
Ginger Fights Bacteria - Especially Oral Bacteria
Ginger is a potent antimicrobial, meaning that it effectively kills certain strains of bacteria. In particular, studies have focused on ginger’s ability to prevent oral infections caused by high levels of oral bacteria. So if you’re worried about gingivitis, gum disease, or bad breath, then drink more ginger tea!
Ginger Has Anti-Cancer Properties
In the laboratory, gingerol, a compound found in ginger, was found to have several inhibitory effects on cancer cells, enabling it to potentially prevent certain types of gastrointestinal cancers as well as forms of ovarian and breast cancer.
As you can see, there’s certainly no harm in adding a little more ginger to your diet, even if you don’t feel sick. Eating or drinking just a tiny amount of ginger every day can help to reduce your inflammation levels, fight the presence of oral bacteria, stabilize your blood sugar and reduce your cholesterol levels - all before you show any signs or symptoms.
How Does Ginger Help To Fight Inflammation?
Inflammation is a natural bodily response that is designed to keep you safe from harm. Unfortunately, if inflammation levels remain high for too long, then rather than doing good, they can start to cause harm, leading to permanent damage and serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
What’s The Difference Between Chronic And Acute Inflammation?
If you hurt yourself playing football, graze your knee or get sick, then this will trigger an acute inflammation response. Acute inflammation is normal and is the reason why an injury may swell up, become red, and get hot. By sending a rush of white blood cells to an injured area of your body, your immune system is able to speed up the recovery process, helping you to heal more quickly.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, isn’t normal. Acute inflammation can turn into chronic inflammation if an injury or infection has not been treated correctly and can also be caused by an immune disorder or exposure to toxins and pollutants.
How To Reduce Chronic Inflammation Levels
Depending on the cause of your chronic inflammation, there are several treatment options.
- Following An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Taking Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Taking Steroids
- Taking Supplements
Where Does Ginger Come Into All Of This?
Ginger is a proven anti-inflammatory, meaning that it can actively reduce inflammation levels in the body. In fact, ginger is so effective at reducing inflammation that it is recommended as a dietary supplement for those with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory autoimmune diseases. Research into why ginger is an effective anti-inflammatory showed that, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ginger was able to inhibit the enzymes cyclooxygenase-1 and cyclooxygenase-2 - making it a natural alternative to NSAIDs.
Is Fresh Ginger Better For You Than Dried Ginger?
The short answer to this question is no - all ginger is good ginger, and for best medicinal results, you might want to try incorporating both fresh and dried ginger into your diet. Here are some of the differences that you should be aware of.
The Difference Between Fresh And Dried Ginger
The only difference between high-quality dried ginger and fresh ginger is that dry ginger has had its water content removed before it is then ground into a more convenient spice power. This means that all of the health-giving compounds found in ginger remain intact in ginger powder. One thing that you should watch out for, however, is how your ginger has been dried. Ginger dried naturally in the sun will retain more of its nutrients than ginger dried at a super-high temperature.
Does Dried Ginger And Fresh Ginger Taste The Same?
If you’ve ever tasted fresh and dried ginger back-to-back, you’ll notice that fresh ginger has more acidic zing than dried ginger, which is slightly mellower. Although their flavors are very similar, fresh ginger often tastes more vibrant than dried ginger, which loses some of its potency when its water content is removed.
Which Is Better For You?
Ultimately, all kinds of ginger are good for you, but if you’re taking ginger for its health benefits only, it is often prescribed as a powder or supplement form. Dried ginger is often used medicinally because it is easier to weigh out and more convenient to consume. This doesn’t mean that fresh ginger is any less good for you; in fact, eating ginger raw ensures that it retains more of its original nutrients.
Can You Substitute Dried Ginger And Fresh Ginger When Cooking
If you find yourself reading a recipe that calls for fresh ginger and you only have dried ginger, can you swap one in for another? The answer to this question is a little more complicated than a simple yes or a no because fresh and dried ginger are used in different quantities and for different effects. While dried ginger gives the perfect flavor the ginger biscuits, fresh ginger gives a better flavor to stir-fries and sauces. Wherever possible, try to use the correct type of ginger for your recipe, but if you must make a swap, then be sure to take into consideration the fact that you will need more fresh ginger to achieve the same flavor as dried ginger once cooked and that fresh ginger contains a lot of moisture which could change the consistency of cakes and biscuits.
How To Add More Ginger Into Your Daily Diet
So you’ve got this far and now realize just how good ginger is for you, and you want to start eating more of it. The good news is, there are dozens of ways to eat ginger - here are a few to get you started.
Brew Yourself A Cup Of Warming Ginger Tea
You don’t need any cooking skills to make a cup of ginger tea. Simply grate some fresh ginger or add some dried ginger to a mug and cover with boiling water. It really is that simple. Allow your cup to sit for a few minutes so that the flavors can infuse, and then drink your beverage like you would a herbal tea! There’s more information on ginger tea a little later on in this post.
Infuse Ginger Into Your Water
If you’re on the go and don’t have time for ginger tea, then there’s no excuse not to infuse ginger into a bottle of water. Simply cut up some fresh ginger root and pop it into your water bottle to allow the essential oils and flavors to infuse.
Make Ginger Oil
Ginger oil is another really easy way to add the health benefits of ginger to your diet. Either buy it ready-made or try making some yourself and then drizzle it onto salads! Ginger oil also makes a fantastic massage oil, helping to relieve tension in sore muscles and reduce inflammation.
Swap Sweets For Candied Ginger
If you often snack on chocolate or candy, then swap these non-nutritious sweet treats for candied ginger. Candied ginger tastes like candy, but it still has all of the nutritional health benefits of eating ginger! Win-win!
Make A Ginger Syrup
If you ever make candied ginger yourself, then you’ll be left with some delicious ginger syrup. Ginger syrup may be high in sugar, but it still contains gingerol and many of the other health-giving compounds found in ginger. Don’t throw this delicious liquid away! Bottle it and keep it aside as a drizzle for pancakes or as a sweetener for cocktails!
Play With Pickles
Fresh ginger is delicious as it is, but it can be taken to a whole new level when pickled! Ginger pickle can be served on the side of a dish or used as an ingredient for some added ginger zing. Another benefit of pickling your fresh ginger is that it will now last forever - no more shriveled ginger destined for the bin.
Blend Ginger Into Your Smoothies
Ginger works surprisingly well in most fruit-based and green smoothies. Simply peel a knob of fresh ginger, add it to your blender, or toss in a teaspoon of dried ginger powder.
Bake Ginger Into Your Next Cake
Even if you’re not a fan of ginger, you’ll probably like the flavor once it's baked into a cake, biscuit, or cookie. When used in baking, ginger loses a lot of its spicy flavor and becomes mellow. Why not try adding some crystallized ginger to your next batch of cookies?
How To Make Your Own Ginger Tea
As previously mentioned, one of the easiest ways to enjoy ginger is when brewed into a tea. Although ginger tea and ginger tea bags may be a relatively new product in the western world, ginger tea has been drunk for centuries as a healing tonic.
Why Do People Drink Ginger Tea?
Aside from being a low-calorie and tasty drink, ginger tea is also a great way to consume ginger, especially if you suffer from nausea, period pain, or an upset stomach. Slowly drinking a hot cup of ginger tea can reduce menstrual pain, prevent morning sickness and soothe an upset stomach while also providing all of the other health benefits associated with ginger.
How To Make Ginger Tea Yourself
Most health-food stores now sell ginger tea bags, but it’s straightforward to make ginger tea at home. All you need is:
- Boiling Water
Making Ginger Tea With Fresh Ginger
If you’re making ginger tea with fresh ginger, then use one to two teaspoons of grated ginger per cup.
- Start by removing the skin from the ginger and then grate the ginger on the smallest grater side.
- Add one to two teaspoons of grated ginger directly to your mug or place inside a tea strainer and then cover with boiling water.
- Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes or until the water has cooled enough to drink.
Making Ginger Tea With Dried Ginger
If you’re using dry ginger, then you’ll want to use approximately two grams per cup.
- Add two grams of ginger to your mug.
- Pour over boiling water and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.
What If You Don’t Like The Taste Of Ginger?
If you don’t like the taste of ginger but would still like to try ginger tea, then you might want to try adding some other flavors like lemon, cardamom, or cinnamon. You could also add some black or green tea leaves to your cup or start by drinking a more diluted ginger tea and work your way up to a more robust flavor.
How To Make Ginger Water
For a hot summer’s day, ginger tea can be a little too warm, so why not try ginger water instead?! Like ginger tea, ginger water is an easy way to consume all of the health benefits associated with ginger while also staying hydrated at the same time. Ginger water can be made using both still and sparkling water and can also be mixed with other fruity flavors.
How Do You Make Ginger Water?
Making ginger water couldn’t be simpler. All you need to do is add freshly grated or chopped ginger to your water, and you’re good to go! For maximum health benefits, it’s best to leave your ginger water to infuse for a couple of hours before drinking it.
What If You Don’t Like Bits In Your Water?
Understandably, drinking water with chunks of ginger can take a bit of getting used to. If you don’t like bits in your water, then try using a tea strainer to hold your grated ginger, or look into buying an infuser water bottle.
What If You Don’t Like The Taste Of Ginger Water?
If you don’t like the taste of ginger water, then there are a few things that you can do to make it more palatable.
Adding in a few lemon wedges, some fresh strawberries, or some orange slices can help to mask the flavor of ginger while also infusing your water with other nutrients.
If your ginger water tastes too strong, then try infusing it for less time or add less ginger.
Adding honey or some other form of sweetener to your water could help to mellow out the ginger flavor.
How Do You Make A Ginger Shot?
Ginger shots are a very concentrated dose of ginger water or just blended ginger. While they may not taste the best, they’re designed to provide the maximum amount of nutrients in the smallest dose possible. They’ve become very trendy in cafes and health-food shops, but you can also make them yourself at home. To make your own ginger shot, simply blend ginger with a little water, or try blending ginger with orange juice for a slightly better flavor and an extra kick of vitamins.
How To Make Your Own Candied Ginger
If you’re currently snacking on non-nutritional candies, then it’s time to swap to candied ginger! While candied ginger is still sweet and should be consumed in moderation, it does have all of the benefits of ginger and so can be used as an anti-sickness sweet.
How To Make Candied Ginger At Home
Making candied ginger is a little time-consuming, but it’s worth it if you can be bothered to put the effort in. This recipe will take around 90 minutes to prepare, but the candied ginger will need a further 7-10 hours to dry before it is ready to eat.
You Will Need
- 1lb of peeled fresh ginger
- 2 cups of sugar (white granulated preferred)
- 1 cup of extra sugar for coating
- A pinch of sea salt
How To Make Your Candied Ginger
- Remember to peel your ginger first. The quickest and easiest way to do this without wasting too much ginger is to use a teaspoon.
- For this candied ginger recipe, we'll be making disks. Cut your ginger into disks that are approximately ⅛ inches thick. Use a mandolin for consistency.
- Add your ginger slices to a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until softened.
- Drain your ginger slices but keep the ginger water. You’ll need half of it later - the rest can be bottled and drunk as ginger tea.
- In the same saucepan, add the reserved ginger water, sugar, salt, and boiled ginger slices and bring this mixture to a boil before reducing the heat and simmering for 40 minutes.
- If you have a sugar thermometer, then stop heating the mixture when it reaches 225F)
- After 40 minutes or when the sugar reaches 225F, drain off the sugar syrup into a bowl. Be careful; it’s hot! You can use this ginger syrup in other recipes.
- Place the drained ginger slices on a cooling rack in a single layer. Place a baking sheet underneath to catch any syrup drips.
- Allow the slices to dry until they reach a tacky and sticky consistency - this will take around two hours.
- Once tacky, toss the slices with your extra sugar until evenly coated before returning them to the cooling rack to dry overnight fully or for 7-10 hours. Store in a cool and dry place.
Where To Buy High-Quality Candied Ginger Online
If you don’t fancy spending 10+ hours making your own candied ginger, then you can easily buy it online instead. Sadly, not all of the candied ginger out there is of the same standard, and some packs contain added colors, flavors, and e-numbers.
What To Look For When Buying Candied Ginger
To help you sort high-quality candied ginger from cheaper, less tasty varieties, here are our top two things to look out for.
Extra Ingredients That Are Listed
To make candied ginger, all you need is sugar and raw ginger, and the highest quality candied ginger will only contain these two things. Candied ginger products that contain extra ingredients like e-numbers, colorants, fillers or flavorings, should be avoided.
An Unusually Bright Color
Candied ginger should be a natural yellow-orange color, with a slight translucency. Candied ginger that is too brightly colored may have been dyed with food coloring to make it more visually appealing.
Below, we’ve listed a couple of places to try if you’re looking for high-quality candied ginger.
There’s not a lot that you can’t get on Amazon these days, and that includes candied ginger. Amazon is a giant online retailer and sells hundreds of different food brands, including several big-name ginger companies such as Ginger People. Although there are a lot of quality ginger products to be found on Amazon, there’s also an equal amount of poor quality ginger, and so you’ll need to keep a close eye on customer reviews. Before you make a purchase, check the package size and scroll down until you can view the ingredients. If a pack of candied ginger contains anything but ginger and sugar, then keep looking.
Ayoub’s Dried Fruit And Nuts
If you’re serious about finding high-quality candied ginger, then look no further than us here, at Ayoub’s Dried Fruits and Nuts. At Ayoub’s, we source the most succulent pieces of ginger and candy them to create the perfect balance of sweetness and fiery ginger heat. You won't find any additives, colorants, or e-numbers in any of our dried fruit or candied products, just wholesome ingredients and maximum natural flavor. If you’re planning to use candied ginger in your cooking or baking, then our finely diced candied ginger is pre-chopped to the perfect size. Alternatively, for bigger and juicier candied ginger chunks, then check out our original candied ginger pieces.
How To Store Fresh, Dried, And Candied Ginger
Now you know how healthy ginger is, how to incorporate more of it into your diet and where to buy it from; the only piece of the puzzle left to discover is how you should store it.
Storing Fresh Ginger Root
If left alone in the fridge, the fresh ginger root will become a shriveled shell of its former self in no time at all. Here’s how to make fresh ginger last longer at home.
Freeze It Right Away
One of the easiest ways to prevent fresh ginger from spoiling is to prepare it and freeze it right away. Fresh ginger will last in the freezer for up to six months, giving you plenty of time to use it in your recipes. To make things easier for your future self, peel, dice, or grate your ginger before freezing it, and portion it out into tablespoon size-servings using an ice cube tray.
Don’t Put It In The Fridge
Unlike most fresh foods, ginger actually spoils more quickly when it’s left in the fridge. To help it last longer, keep it in a cool and dark place at room temperature. In these conditions, a large piece of fresh ginger root will usually stay plump for two to three weeks.
Lastly, another great way to preserve fresh ginger is to pickle it. Simply peel and then slice or dice your ginger into small pieces and then cover them with vinegar or vodka. Pickled ginger tastes great as a fresh, zingy accompaniment but can also be used when cooking.
Storing Dried Ginger
Dried ginger is much easier to store than fresh ginger and will typically last anywhere from two to three years as long as it doesn’t get wet. Here’s how best to store your dry ginger.
Keep It Airtight
Store dried ginger in an airtight container to prevent moisture from ruining it. If dried ginger gets moist, then it could become moldy and will spoil much quicker.
Stick To The Use-By Date
Although dried ginger has a relatively long shelf life, it will start to lose its potency over time. For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to the use-by-date on its original packaging and to refresh your supply when it runs out.
Store In A Cool And Dark Place
Both high temperatures and sunlight can spoil dry spices. For this reason, it’s best to keep them in a cool and dark place, such as in the pantry. If you can’t keep them in a pantry, then transfer them to an opaque container.
How To Store Candied Ginger
Finally, although candied ginger is rarely around for long, here’s how best to store it. Thanks to its sugar content, when stored correctly, shop-bought candied ginger can last just as long as dried ginger, and homemade candied ginger can last three to six months!
Store In An Airtight Container
Like dry ginger, moisture is also the enemy of candied ginger. For this reason, it’s best to store candied ginger in an airtight container. If moisture is allowed to get into your candied ginger, then it could allow your ginger to go moldy and will ruin its candied texture.
Keep Candied Ginger Cool
When candied ginger is exposed to high temperatures, the solid sugar coating may start to melt. This will leave you with a pool of ginger syrup and appealing sticky ginger. To stop candied ginger from getting too hot, store it in a cool place away from direct sunlight, like the fridge.
Use A Spoon, Not Your Fingers
Lastly, we know how tempting it can be to dip in and out of your candied ginger container but to help keep the rest of your candied ginger fresh, you should use a clean spoon to remove candied ginger pieces rather than your fingers. Any bacteria on your hands could cause your candied ginger to go moldy more quickly.
So there you have it! Now you know everything that you need to know about ginger. Will you be adding some to your diet?
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