words Al Woods
Ah, ginger. What a life saver. The staple of so many recipes, including curries, stir fries and soups, the rhizome — or root — of the ginger plant is known for its peppery and sweet taste, and pungent and spicy aroma.
As well as being distinctive and oh-so-tasty, it’s also incredibly versatile. Not only can you rely on ginger as a key ingredient when making lunch and dinner, but it’s also great in desserts too, from gingerbread and ginger cake, to sticky ginger pudding and ginger custard bomboloni. Ginger is even a key ingredient in various drinks, like soft beverages such as ginger beer, ginger tea and ginger kombucha, and a whole host of different cocktails.
So, to pay homage to this brilliant bulbous root, we’ve decided to give you three facts about ginger that you might not know.
Image by www.kjokkenutstyr.net
Ginger has been in use for over 5,000 years now, originally hailing from South East Asia. Used by ancient Chinese and Indians as a tonic root for various ailments, ginger eventually arrived in Europe with the spice trade, making it one of the first spices to be exported by Asia. As it travelled west, it eventually became a rich man’s herb, and was heavily consumed by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Over time, ginger continued to be a highly desired commodity, even after the fall of the Roman Empire. By the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a pound of ginger was still worth the same as a sheep, proving just how valuable it was. Fast forward to modern times, ginger is still extremely sought after: the most recent statistics show that worldwide production of ginger stood at 4.1 million tonnes in 2019, with India accounting for 44% of this.
As touched upon, not only is ginger delicious and regularly used as an ingredient in food and drink, it also offers several potential health benefits. This is mainly due to its gingerol content, a compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger is likely to have some of these health benefits:
As ginger stimulates digestive acids and secretions, it’s believed to aid digestion, effectively speeding up the emptying of the stomach. Consequently, consuming ginger is potentially a great way of relieving the symptoms of indigestion, including bloating and general stomach discomfort.
Although ginger does impact the gastrointestinal system directly, research also suggests that it can work outside of the digestive tract and reduce nausea. One study found that ginger inhibits serotonin receptor activity, with the neurotransmitter playing a large role in initiating nausea.
Ginger may also help with weight loss, according to several studies. For example, a 2019 literature review found that ginger supplementation hugely reduced body weight, the waist-hip ratio, and the hip ratio in overweight people. This largely comes down to ginger’s ability to improve digestion and suppress one’s appetite.
Ever wondered why you’re served pickled ginger (otherwise known as gari) in between sushi dishes? Well, it’s because the Japanese see the herb as a fantastic palate cleanser, with the acidic spiciness of ginger the perfect antidote to the strong taste of seafood. This helps you to distinguish between the different flavours of fish across different dishes, enabling you to enjoy your meal to the fullest. What’s more, ginger used in this way is often soaked in vinegar, which is acidic and can further help remove any residual taste from the previous dish. All in all, using ginger in this way is like resetting your tongue so that each piece of sushi tastes new.
However, it’s important not to eat the sushi with the ginger, as the herb can overwhelm the taste of fish and dampen the experience.