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The Best of Ginger

Whether cooking with ginger or enjoying a cup of hot ginger tea, the world has been enjoying this ancient spice for centuries. It is believed that ginger was first introduced to the human palate some 5000 years ago, and it is still as popular today as it was back then.

Today, ginger is grown in any sub-tropical regions with India being the largest producer of the spice. Even though the cultivation of ginger began in South Asia, it has since spread to East Africa,the Caribbean and all the way across the four corners of the world.

This intriguing spice is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant which has a firm striated texture. The younger the rhizomes, the milder the taste, but the later they are harvested, the more pungent they become. Most fresh ginger sold at the market is in its mature form. Once the skin is peeled what is revealed is the juicy, flesh which can be yellow, white or red in color depending on the variety. Although the leaves of the plant are edible, it is the rhizome that is primarily used for culinary and medicinal applications.

After the ginger has been harvested, they may be dried, or have the oil extracted, or sold fresh as they are. For dried ginger, the rhizomes are boiled or scraped and then dried. The dried rhizomes are pulverized into ground ginger, which is the ginger powder most of us have inside our kitchen pantry.

Ginger is best known for its exciting pungency, which adds an unusual flavor and zest to popular Asian stir-fries and soups, Indian curries, as well as many Thai vegetable, and fruit dishes. It is often used in Chinese cuisine, but ginger can also be found in European and American kitchens in both fresh and powdered form. In fact, the Scandinavians use dried, ground ginger for making their signature cookies, pastries, and cakes. And, without ginger, we wouldn't have the famous gingerbread cookies, delicious cakes and cupcakes. Have you ever tried a ginger scone?

Beloved for its aromatic fragrance, ginger has traveled the globe finding its way into many extraordinary cuisines. For example in Morocco you will taste the zest of ginger in Moroccan stews, tagine and soup dishes. Beverages are simply transformed when ginger is added to the mix - it's every mixologists dream come true!

One of the ways I like to cook with ginger is when I saute it with garlic to make a stir fry dish. This combination makes perfect sense when it comes to taste and health. In fact, the oils in ginger help with the digestive process and we all know that garlic is a natural immune booster so the two together is a no-brainer!

Quick Ideas:

-Combine ginger, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic to make a wonderful salad dressing.
-Add ginger and orange juice to a purée sweet potatoes.
-Add grated ginger to stuffing for stuffing your favorite turkey.
-Add zest to sautéed vegetables by adding minced ginger.
-Simple cup of ginger and honey tea for those winter days.

The applications for using ginger are countless, but for me I simply savor the taste that ginger provides, which brings me to my latest recipe: Beef with Okra. This exciting dish calls for some of Mother Nature's marvelous spices.

Bon appetit!