You may pass by that gnarled root in the grocery store, but reconsider. This root is a multi-use ingredient that packs both flavour and reported health benefits into its compact form.
While many may consider ginger – or Zingiber officinale – a mere spice, its uses are varied and diverse. It can be incorporated into dishes in fresh, ground, pickled or candied forms. You can satisfy your sweet tooth with ginger snaps and gingerbread, quench your thirst with ginger beer or tea, or plate up a savoury ginger-infused stir-fry.
Ginger is not exactly a farmers’ market staple in Canada – our chilly temperatures don’t provide the best climate for the root, which flourishes in warmer locales. However, you can try your hand at growing it indoors. Teacher and permaculture expert Dustin Bajer has successfully cultivated ginger with students in the greenhouse at Jasper Place High School. How, exactly? “It’s a tuber, so you can plant fresh ginger from the grocery store and make a clone of the original plant,” says Bajer. He suggests planting it horizontally in a well-draining pot using regular potting soil.
Ginger has a host of health benefits – it helps with nausea, acts as an anti-inflammatory, relieves pain and more, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Glow Juicery incorporates ginger in three of its popular juices, and founder Marnie Ashcroft believes in using it raw and fresh. “The closer you get to the source of a plant in its natural form, the more you’re going to be able to activate those natural properties,” says Ashcroft. She adds that, when ginger remains untreated – not heated, pickled or preserved in any way – the enzymes within remain intact and deliver the full powerhouse health punch to the consumer.
Ginger generally serves as a supporting character in any dish it’s in – after all, it has quite a kick. Perhaps the sole dish where it’s consumed on its own is when it is pickled and served as an accompaniment to sushi. While you can certainly hunt it down in select grocery store aisles, it’s also very easy to make pickled ginger at home.
Recipe courtesy of Molly Yeh, featured on food52.com
Makes about cup
1 large knob of ginger
cup rice vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt
1.Rinse ginger and scrape off skin. Slice very thinly, with mandolin or vegetable peeler. Place approximately one cup of sliced ginger into sterilized jar.
2. In a small saucepan, stir together sugar, water, rice vinegar and salt, so that sugar dissolves. Bring to boil over medium high heat, then pour mixture over the ginger. Let cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.
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