Ginger helps against nausea and flu. What foods and drinks does this pungent spice go well with?

Ginger is one of the few spices that we use in both fresh and dried form.

It adds a characteristic “spicy warmth” to dishes and drinks.

It is used to flavor everything from sauces and stir-fries to biscuits and tea.

Did you know that ginger is actually not a root but a rhizome?

What compounds give it its characteristic pungent taste?

How to bake and cook with ginger?

We will reveal all the secrets of this superfood to you in the following lines.

What is ginger?

Although ginger is often referred to as a root, it actually comes from the rhizome, or underground stem, of ginger (Zingiber officiale), which belongs to the ginger family, along with turmeric and cardamom. Originally from Southeast Asia, it reached Europe through the spice trade.

In the kitchen, ginger has a variety of uses, it is used to flavor sweet and salty dishes and drinks. Ginger has a long tradition, especially in Indian, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. The word ginger comes from the ancient Sanskrit term singabera, meaning “horn-shaped”.

Fresh ginger whole and sliced.

What does ginger taste like?

The taste of fresh ginger is slightly peppery and sweet at the same time, the aroma is sharp and spicy. Like garlic, fresh ginger softens when cooked and becomes bitter when burnt. Ground dried ginger has a less distinct and pungent taste than fresh ginger.

The unique aroma and taste of ginger comes from the volatile oils that make up 1-3% of the composition of fresh ginger. These oils are composed of zingerone, shogaol and gingerol, with the main component and most active molecule being gingerol, which gives ginger its distinct pungency.

How to eat ginger?

Ginger is usually available in several different forms – fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, candied and ground.

  • Fresh Ginger – The mature root usually has a light brown skin that needs to be peeled and a yellow stringy flesh. It can be grated, chopped or ground for use. If you notice a blue ring after cutting fresh ginger, don’t worry, it’s not mold. It is only a Hawaiian variety that turns blue over time during ripening. Recently, in addition to mature fresh ginger, young ginger is also available, which has a light, thin skin that does not need to be peeled, and whose taste is more delicate.

  • Candied Ginger – Pieces of ginger are boiled in sugar syrup until soft and then coated in granulated sugar. It is mainly used in desserts.
Bowl with candied ginger.

  • Pickled ginger – known for its pink color. It is ginger pickled in a solution of sugar, coli and rice vinegar, it is mainly used in Asian cuisine. In Japan, it is called gari and is an integral part of eating sushi.
A bowl of pickled pink ginger.

  • Dried ginger – available in different varieties, cut into pieces or slices, or sweetened. It can be consumed as it is, or it can also be made into tea.
Dried ginger slices.

  • Ground ginger – dried ground ginger root, its advantage is ease of use. It is used, for example, in marinades, when baking or frying rice.
A bowl of dried ground ginger.

  • Preserved ginger – this is ginger preserved in a mixture of sugar and salt. In Asian cuisine, it is usually used as a confection or added to desserts.
Jar with pieces of preserved ginger.

Why does ginger burn?

The pungency of ginger comes from its specific compounds. Gingerol is a phenol found in fresh, uncooked ginger and is chemically related to capsaicin, but much milder. It is also related to eugenol, found in cinnamon and nutmeg, and to piperine, commonly found in black pepper. What makes you feel the hot taste of ginger is gingerol, which activates receptors on the tongue.

When ginger is dried, shogaol is produced from gingerol. This conversion doubles the heat, which is why many people find dried ginger hotter than fresh. When gingerol is exposed to heat, it becomes zingerone. Zingeron, on the other hand, is sweeter because it has much more in common with vanilla than with capsaicin.

What does ginger contain?

This spice contains a whole range of valuable substances and plant compounds, which, in addition to its taste, also give it exceptional medicinal effects. It is interesting to compare the nutritional values of fresh ginger and its more concentrated dried ground form. The table shows a comparison of 100 grams of both forms.

Fresh ginger Ground dried ginger
Energy 80 calories 335 calories
Water 78.9 g 9.94 g
Carbohydrates 17.8 g 71.6 g
Proteins 1.82 g 8.98 g
Fats 0.75 g 4.24 g
Fiber 2 g 14.1 g

In terms of vitamins, ginger mainly contains group B vitamins and vitamin C, and it contains a relatively large amount of copper, potassium and magnesium from the mineral substances.

Fresh ginger Ground dried ginger
Vitamin B1 0.025 mg 0.046 mg
Vitamin B2 0.034 mg 0.17 mg
Vitamin B3 0.75 mg 9.62 mg
Vitamin B6 0.16 mg 0.636 mg
Vitamin C 5 mg 0.7 mg
Potassium 415 mg 1320 mg
Phosphorus 34 mg 168 mg
Magnesium 43 mg 214 mg
Copper 0.226 mg 0.48 mg
Calcium 16 mg 114 mg
Zinc 0.34 mg 3.64 mg
Iron 0.6 mg 19.8 mg

What is ginger used for?

This spice adds a ‘kick’ to many sweet and savory dishes and drinks in a wide range of cuisines. It is almost impossible to list the ways in which it can be used. In Asian cuisine, fresh ginger root is used in many meat and vegetable dishes. In Anglo-Saxon kitchens, ground ginger is often used as a spice in biscuits and preserves.

It is an incredibly versatile ingredient in hot and cold drinks such as teas, lemonades and cocktails. Recently, ginger beer has also become very popular. Ginger naturally combines well with honey and lemon.

  • Tea is far from the only popular ginger recipe . Ginger lemonade is very refreshing in the summer months. In it too, ginger is often combined with lemon and mint.

  • You will also appreciate a piece of fresh ginger when preparing many creamy soups . It is most often supplied to intensify the taste in pumpkin or carrot soups.

  • Do you like baking gingerbread and gingerbread cookies? Then you know that ginger is one of the spices that cannot be missing in them. In addition to these spices, you will also need honey and baking soda for the most delicious Christmas gingerbread cookies .

  • Slices of fresh ginger can also liven up a variety of stews, whether meat or vegetable.

  • Indian cuisine uses ginger very often, you will appreciate it, for example, in the preparation of tikka masala , pieces of marinated chicken in curry sauce.

  • Another classic of Asian cuisine is fried rice, try ginger spice in fried rice recipes .

  • Pickled ginger is an important side dish when serving homemade sushi . Other traditional accompaniments to this Japanese delicacy are soy sauce or wasabi.

Round ginger cookies.

How to choose fresh ginger?

Fresh ginger can be found in most stores today, but its quality can vary greatly. In general, choose a smooth-skinned root with a fresh, spicy scent, and avoid roots that show signs of mold at the ends. The tubers should be firm to the touch.

Avoid those whose flesh is wrinkled, this also means that the ginger is no longer in the best condition. When you break off a piece of root, it should break cleanly and sharply and not bend.

How to peel fresh ginger?

Whether you peel the fresh root or not is up to you, as the peel is edible. In general, the wrinkled brown skin of mature ginger is usually removed. This is mainly because it lacks flavor and depending on how you plan to further process the ginger, it can also add an unpleasant texture to the dish. There are several options for removing the peel:

  • spoon

  • vegetable peeler

  • with a knife

Ripe ginger has fibers that run lengthwise through it, so the key to getting tender pieces is to always cut across the grain, just as you would when slicing a steak.

Peeling ginger root with a spoon.

Ginger storage

You can store fresh ginger in a dark, cool and well-ventilated place for up to one month. Store it in the refrigerator wrapped in a paper towel and a plastic bag. You can also freeze the root and grate it as needed directly from the freezer, without the need for defrosting. Ginger blended into a puree can also be frozen, it will be ready for use later.

Ground, candied and dried ginger should be stored in an airtight container in a dry, dark place. Store pickled and preserved ginger in its original packaging in the refrigerator.

What to replace ginger with?

If you don’t have either fresh or dried ground ginger on hand, it can be substituted to some extent with a blend of other warming spices, such as allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, or nutmeg.

Ginger and its effects

In India, China and the Middle East, ginger has been used for thousands of years not only as a spice, but also as a medicine, especially to relieve nausea. It is also known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Why is it worth including ginger in the diet?

  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects – according to research, gingerol has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It helps reduce oxidative stress, which is the result of an excessive amount of free radicals in the body. Gingerol can help reduce the risk of infection by inhibiting the growth of many different types of bacteria, such as those associated with gingivitis and respiratory infections.

  • Anti-cancer properties – ginger has also been researched as an alternative agent against several forms of cancer. In a study of people at normal risk of developing colon cancer, 2 grams of ginger extract per day significantly reduced the amount of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules in the colon. There is some evidence, albeit limited, that this spice may be effective against other cancers of the digestive tract as well as breast and ovarian cancers. But more research needs to be done.

  • Helps with nausea – Ginger is highly effective against a variety of nausea, such as pregnancy sickness, motion sickness such as driving, and chemotherapy-related nausea.

  • Relieves Chronic Indigestion – This spice speeds up the emptying of the stomach, which can be beneficial for people with indigestion and related stomach problems. In addition, research shows that it can help increase movement through the digestive tract, which can relieve or prevent constipation.

  • Helps with weight loss – studies show that ginger supplementation significantly reduces body weight and waist-to-hip ratio in overweight or obese people. Ginger’s ability to influence weight loss may be related to certain mechanisms, such as its potential to help increase the number of calories burned.

  • Alleviates osteoarthritis – consuming ginger contributes to reducing pain and stiffness in joints affected by this degenerative disease.

  • Lowers Blood Sugar – This spice has been shown to lower blood sugar and improve various risk factors for heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes.

  • It has a positive effect on the level of cholesterol – the consumption of ginger can lead to a significant reduction in the level of bad cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

  • Relieves menstrual pain – one of the traditional uses of ginger is to relieve pain, including menstrual pain. Studies show that it can reduce pain as effectively as painkillers.

  • Improves brain function – studies suggest that antioxidants and bioactive compounds in ginger can suppress inflammatory responses that occur in the brain. There is also some evidence that it may directly help improve brain functions such as reaction time and working memory.

Ginger tea

Especially in the autumn and winter months, ginger tea is a popular drink. It is prepared from fresh ginger grated or cut into pieces and hot water. Allow the ginger to infuse for approximately 10-15 minutes. After it cools down, in addition to honey and lemon, you can also flavor it with a few mint leaves.

A cup of ginger tea.

Ginger syrup

Ginger syrup can also help with colds. It is enough to boil slices of fresh ginger in water with sugar for approximately quarter of an hour. After boiling, add freshly squeezed lemon juice to the syrup and let the syrup cool.

Negative effects of ginger

In general, it is not recommended to consume more than 4 grams of fresh or 1 gram of dried ginger per day. Higher amounts can cause various digestive problems, including gas, diarrhea or heartburn.

Exceptionally, excessive consumption can also be manifested by an accelerated heart rate. People taking blood clotting, blood pressure or diabetes medication should consult their doctor about its use.

Ginger in pregnancy

Pregnant women often use ginger to relieve morning sickness in the early stages of pregnancy, but its consumption is not recommended in the third trimester, as it can trigger labor contractions.

Growing ginger

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a perennial herb that grows up to one meter in height. The rhizomes that hide underground are usually 2-3 cm wide. Ginger leaves are long and narrow. If flowers appear, they are usually yellow or purple in color. Ginger thrives in tropical areas, it is mainly grown in India, China, West Africa, Mexico, Indonesia and South America. India has long been the largest producer.

Whole ginger plant.

How to grow your own ginger?

Although ginger is originally a medicinal tropical plant, it is not difficult to grow it at home. How to do it?

  • Selection – When selecting a ginger root to plant, look for roots that are plump and young. Any growth buds on the root tips, or buds, are an advantage.

  • Preparation – you can plant a whole ginger root or cut it into several pieces. Before planting, it is advisable to soak it in water overnight. Make sure each piece you plant has at least two eyelets.

  • Soil and location – plant ginger in well-drained, slightly acidic soil to prevent rot. If you plant it in a pot, use a wider pot, because the plant grows horizontally. The best time for planting is the turn of winter and spring. Ginger thrives in partial shade, you can place it outside in summer, but it must be indoors in winter.

  • Planting – place the pieces of roots to a depth of 2-4 cm, with the eyes upwards. If you are planting ginger in a pot, plant only one piece of ginger in each pot as it will need plenty of space.

  • Watering – water the plant immediately after planting. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.

The following video will also show you how to grow ginger at home:

How to Grow Ginger in Containers And Get a Huge Harvest

How to harvest ginger?

When the ginger leaves and stems begin to die back, usually eight to ten months after planting, the ginger is fully matured and ready to harvest. If you want to get young ginger, you can harvest after three to four months.

Two to three weeks before you plan to dig up the ginger, trim the top of its stems. Carefully remove the soil with your hands or a small shovel, cut off part of the rhizome and then cover the rest with soil again. Wash the rhizome under running water to remove as much dirt as possible. After that, your ginger is ready for cooking, pickling, drying or any other preparation.

The origin and history of ginger

Ginger’s historical roots go back 5,000 years, when it was used as a medicinal root in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. For example, the Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote about its importance for digestion as early as 500 BC.

Ginger was one of the first oriental spices to reach Europe and was brought to ancient Greece and Rome by Arab traders. In the Middle Ages, it was already used throughout Europe, but it was only a spice for the rich. You got a live sheep for half a kilo of ginger.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)