The Many Avatars of Ginger
There are more than 400 compounds or phytochemicals in the Ginger rhyzome. Not all the potential benefits of the plant have yet been isolated or discovered. Scientists and medical researchers continue their investigations. These results are unfortunately sometimes neglected by the medical profession in North America.
Since some of the chemical and pharmaceutical properties of Ginger change in the dry form from the fresh form, persons taking Gingermay benefit from consuming it in various forms and combinations.
Furtujnately, a wide range of avatars of Ginger have evolved over the centuries. We’ll list and take a look at some of them and give sources for formulas and recipes involved.
Although this is not primarily a recipe site, we’ll also include a few recipes for these avatars of Ginger where the formula is not readily available in English.
Growing Ginger – Ginger Pot
Using an existing hand of Ginger, you can get it to grow indoors and eventually transplant it to an outdoors pot or garden if you wish.
1 hand ginger, 3 to 6 inches long
1 small clear vase or bowl
Pebbles or gravel, enough to fill the container halfway up
It’s best to choose a piece of ginger with a smooth skin and several eyes. The shape is also important. You want a piece about three to six inches long, preferably with a knob on the bottom that will help it stand upright in the container.
First, you need to slice off a little bit of what will become the bottom of the new Ginger hand and hold it steady in the container, while you fill it most of the way to the top with the pebbles or gravel. Water sparingly once a week and new sprouts should soon appear.
When you want to use Ginger, hold the plant firmly and cut off a piece with a sharp knife. Ginger will grow well indoors in the winter. As it grows, light green nodules will burst through the eyes of the rhizome and eventually it should produce flowers, which are a beautiful red and yellow.
Ginger will grow several months like this in pebbles, longer in dirt, and can be transplanted to grow in pots or in an outdoor garden, when the weather is warm. Be careful about planting it in your main garden. however, as Ginger tends to become very invasive. Once fully settled it, the only way to get rid of it is to move.
This is the form which is ground-up dry Ginger and is used in baking, for Ginger Cake, Gingerbread, Pumpkin Pie, Carrot Cake and Banana Bread. When Ginger is dried, the chemistry changes and gingerols transmute into shagaols. Some Ginger enthusiasts take powdered Ginger in hot water as a tonic, or mixed in yogurt. If you do this, the most economical way to use it is to buy the powdered Ginger from a South Asian grocery, where they sell the spice in bulk, not the tiny bottles sold in the spice department of a supermarket.
If you take Powdered Ginger as a tonic, a good rule of thumb is to take no more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight at one time, and preferably with some yogurt.
Ginger is used to make a hot drink like a tea, and this is used in a number of countries as a tonic, especially to ward off colds and other respiratory problems. You can make a simple Ginger Tea by infusing a few slices or shreds of Ginger in piping hot water and drinking it.
Food writer Nina Simonds, who has also written a book on uses of Ginger in Chinese cuisine, is a devotee of Ginger Tea. She drinks it when traveling to ward off respiratory infections. Her version involves simmering Ginger slices with scallions and adding a little honey and a pinch of salt.
Pink Ginger –called amazu shôga in Japanese — is served in Japanese restaurants with sushi. It’s also used in some chicken and fish dishes. The pink color emerges naturally, without any artificial dye or coloring matter, when ginger is infused with vinegar. The longer it stands after preparing it, the more intense the pink color becomes.
A form of sliced red colored ginger — called beni shôga in Japanese — is often served in Japanese cuisine as a kind fo garnish to fish and other dishes. In this case, the Ginger gets assistance to make it red, traditionally from a natural red colored plan called Beni. Sometimes these days artificial red color is added to the Ginger to intensify the red hue, and if you are concerned about artificial red additives, it is best to read the label.
With modern transportation making fresh Ginger available around the year in most places, Preserved Ginger is less often seen these days. Formerly it was a standard part of the cook’s repertoire in Japan, and it is still sometimes made. It is easy to prepare:
8 ounces fresh Ginger, peeled
½ cup salt
1 cup sugar (about 220 grams)
First peel enough ginger to make 8 ounces after it’s cleaned and peeled. Then boil the Ginger in water until tender, about half an hour. Next make a brine by dissolving he salt in some water, enough to cover the ginger. Soak the Ginger in the salty water for a whole day.
Next throw away the salt water, rinse and drain the Ginger. Make a syrup of the sugar and enough water to cover it, about 1 cup. Put the Ginger in the liquid and boil it for 2 hours. Let the Ginger cool, then slice it thinly crosswise and heat it over a low flame for another hour. The liquid should be quite thick and syrupy, like honey. If you store this in sterile jars, it will last a long time on the shelf without refrigeration. Proportions may be doubled or tripled if you wish.
Triple Ginger Salad
This Asian Fusion recipe makes an excellent, colorful and refreshing salad, which incorporates several forms of Ginger. Here is a recipe which is an improvement over other available recipes:
10 ounces firm white cabbage
2 ounces peeled fresh Ginger
1 medium carrot, about 3 ounces
½ green pepper, about 4 ounces
2 tablespoons sushi vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon Ginger powder
1 tablespoon pickled (Pink) Ginger, amazu shôga
2 tablespoons olive oil
First, peel the Ginger and shred or grate it finely. This can be done on a kitchen grater or a Japanese tool called an oroshigane, which is the tool of choice in Japanese kitchens to grate fresh Ginger.
Then peel the carrot and cut into fine julienne. Cut the green pepper into fine julienne and slice the cabbage into very fine slices. You can do this with a kitchen grater, but many Asian cooks would prefer to do it with a very sharp knife which can render the cabbage into almost paper-thin slices.
Combine the vinegar, Pickled Ginger, sugar, soy, grated Ginger and oil and combine thoroughly. Mix well with the shredded vegetables. This salad is very attractive and keeps well. It is better after sitting an hour or so. As it contains three forms of Ginger — fresh, powdered and pickled — it is really a Triple Ginger Salad. If you wish to add some finely sliced Red Ginger or beni shôga, it will become a Quadruple Ginger Salad.
We’ll cover some further avatars of Ginger in the next article.