Botanical Name: Zingiber officinale

Family: Zingiberaceae

Hindi Name: Adrak

Serving the purpose of a taste-maker, an appetiser and a drug, ginger is known as one of the earliest Oriental spices in Europe. Ginger seems to have originated from southern China. Today, it is cultivated all over tropic and sub-tropic Asia, in Brazil, Jamaica and Nigeria, whose ginger is rather pungent, but lacks the fine aroma of other provenances. Fifty per cent of the world's harvest is produced in India, and the best quality of ginger is exported from Jamaica.

Ginger was an important spice during the Roman times. During the last centuries of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance ginger was used to flavour beer, that is, the alcoholic beverage obtained by fermenting malt. Worldwide, ginger is among the most important and valued spices.

Although it grows in tropical regions all over the world, it is not common in Europe.

It composition is as follows:

  • Proteins: 8.6 %
  • Fat: 6.4 %
  • Fibre: 5.9 %
  • Carbohydrates: 66.5 %
  • Ash: 5.7 %
  • Calcium: 0.1 %
  • Phosphorus: 0.15 %
  • Iron: 0.011 %
  • Sodium: 0.03%
  • Potassium: 1.4 %
  • Vit A: 175 IU/100g
  • Vit B1: 0.05 mg/100g
  • Vit B2: 0.13 mg/100g
  • Niacin: 1.9 %
  • Vit C: 12 mg/100g

The pungency of ginger is caused by a non-volatile resin containing the same type of hydroxyaryl compounds that are also found in other spices of the ginger family. In its fresh state the large, fleshy rhizome has a characteristic staghorn-like appearance. Dried ginger is usually sold in the form of an off­white to very light brown powder.

Ginger has a refreshing, and a pungent, warm taste. The fresh, dried or powdered rhizome of a slender, perennial herb, Indian ginger is acclaimed worldwide for its characteristic taste, flavour and texture. Though grown all over India, the finest quality ginger is grown in Kerala.

In India and Sri Lanka, ginger is chopped or ground then fried with onion and other spices to give the hot and spicy taste a mild, rich flavour. This method of cooking is the basis for delicious sauces, vegetables and meat dishes in North India. Many people like raw ginger, and this is the form most popular in Southeast Asia. Fresh ginger is grated or finely chopped, occasionally soaked in water for several hours, and then added to the dish not long before serving to give it that fresh, spicy pungent taste. Thais add grated ginger with other ingredients in the form of curry pastes to their creamy coconut milk curries. Indonesians frequently use spice pastes based on fresh chillies and ginger to rub over meat before grilling or baking.

Ginger tea, prepared by cooking grated fresh ginger for a few minutes, before adding the tea leaves, is a spicy and healthy drink enjoyed in hot, tropical climates as well as in the cold Himalayan regions.

In Chinese cookery, fresh ginger is used boiled or fried­boiled, for foods that need a long simmering time with slices of ginger, and fried, for stir-fries. In Japan, ginger is used in small quantities-chicken is flavoured by rubbing it with juice obtained from squeezing fresh ginger rhizome. Pickled ginger, which owes its reddish pink colour to perilla leaves, is prepared from very young ginger rhizomes, and is often served with sushi.

Ginger is cultivated as a cash crop in Africa and Latin America, and its drink known as ginger-ale is very popular in USA like root beer, the ginger soft drink is not fermented beer but simply sugar, ginger extract and carbonated water. In Jamaica, some recipes for the jerk paste use ginger, which is not surprising since Jamaica's ginger is of extraordinary quality.

Dried ginger is an optional component of curry powders, and even of the Chinese five-spice powder. It also appears in berbere, a spice mixture from Ethiopia. The taste of dried ginger is more aromatic than pungent.

In Europe, it is used in spicy crackers, gravies and soups. The French use it in their spice mixture, quatre epices. In India, ginger tea is taken as a healthy drink to get relief from cold and cough.

Ginger is stimulant, carminative and expectorant. It is used as a valuable herb in dyspepsia, gastritis, diarrhoea, flatulent colic, respiratory and menstrual disorders, toothaches and other aches and pains. The essential oil from the rhizomes is used in the manufacture of flavouring essence and in perfumery. India offers ginger in a variety of forms like oils, oleoresins, fresh ginger in brine, pickles, candies and syrups, bleached or unbleached and powder forms.

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