Ginger has been around a long, long time. The Produce Bible traces ginger back to southern India at least 2,000 years ago. According to Whole Living, the name comes from the sanskrit word stringa-vera, meaning hornlike body. It’s a tropical plant, a gnarly root- rhizome, actually, growing horizontally underground, sending up shoots with green leaves and yellow flowers annually. Reading The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion, I learned that most ginger comes from Jamaica, but it’s also grown in India, China, and Africa. The root can be harvested young or mature, and this effects both texture and intensity of flavor. Young ginger is more tender and juicy, with a mild spiciness, while mature ginger can be woody with a thick skin and intense heat. Use whatever you can find at the market, just be mindful of how much spice you’re adding to a dish. Ginger is mildly sweet as well as spicy, with a very unique, almost electric flavor. It’s famous for settling upset stomachs, calming the nerves, and reducing inflammation. Cultures across the globe use ginger in many different ways: brewed with hot sweet tea in India, pickled (gari) to cleanse the palate between courses of sushi in Japan, sliced and simmered in soup to renew energy in China, fermented in ginger beer across Asia, and much more. Fresh ginger is also delicious in stir-fries, vinaigrettes, pickles, jams, marinades, and fruit juices/smoothies. Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday, and I’ve got plenty of creative ideas for cooking with fresh gingerroot during late winter and early spring.
When buying fresh ginger, look for specimens that are not wrinkled or dry, but firm with shiny skin. Buy only what you need, breaking off a piece to your liking, as fresh ginger is sold by the pound. Store the fresh ginger in a paper bag in the vegetable crisper of your fridge for several weeks. Reading The Encyclopedia of Asian Food, I learned that it’s easy to preserve fresh ginger longer by slicing it into knobs, peeling the knobs, and placing them in a sterile jar filled with dry sherry. Keep the ginger refrigerated. To peel fresh ginger, just slice off the skin with a paring knife. Recipes may call for fresh ginger to be thinly sliced, grated with a microplane or other fine grater, or pulverized in a food processor. Stay tuned to la Domestique this week to find tips, techniques, and recipes for cooking with fresh ginger.
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