Good Eats: Ginger

This is the first in a series this year about foods that I’d like to learn more about.  This month, I learned about ginger and will share a recipe using it that’s new to me.   Next month, I’m going to tell you all about tea.  Oh!  The Send Sarah to Philadelphia fundraiser is off to a great start…contribute $10 and get some really great art or help spread the word!  

If you asked me to name one thing that I couldn’t live without, it would be ginger.  How could I not pick it to be my life line?  It’s a spice, a medicine and a tasty treat.

Ginger began its love affair with the world in a little corner somewhere off in Asia.  Trade routes brought the hot and spicy little number to Africa and the Caribbean.  It was used as an antidote for poison, admired by the upper-class and pops up in distinctive dishes from the oddest places, like Peru!

I’ve been going steady with ginger ever since I lived in Japan.  Before then, we had a halfhearted relationship…sweet Ginger People candies soothed my upset tummy and it made those cute and edible holiday houses so darn irresistible.

Ginger was also that antiseptic-tasting pink pickled stuff that came with my sushi (blech!) and the reason why I wanted to run for cover when dad declared it stir-fry night.  “Whoever gets the ginger chunk washes the dishes!” he would say, usually right before pulling the surprise hunk of what I thought was chicken from my mouth to sadly place it on edge of my plate.  Oh, memories.

In the West, ginger is traditionally an ingredient in sweet foods and drinks.  Cakes, breads, cookies, crackers, ales…the list goes on.  In the East, many savory dishes feature sliced or chopped ginger and, when it’s candied, it’s the best bit in the box.  One of my Korean students said her mom minces ginger for beef dishes and her grandma includes it in the family’s kimchee recipe.

Ginger tea is served in many countries and it’s usually the same recipe: hot water + peeled and sliced ginger + brown sugar = simple yet so good.  The beneficial brew helps cure colds, alleviates headaches and settles stomachs.  Pungent Jamaican ginger beer is mostly amusing with its nose-wrinkling fizziness and a shot of ginger brandy always gives a great one-two punch at parties.

Five Ginger Facts
1.  Ginger is a stimulant so it’s actually possible to overdose on it.  You can get the ginger jitters!
2.  India produces more ginger than China.
3.  Snooty Romans often confused ginger with pepper.
4.  Fresh ginger must be peeled before eating.  It can also be cut up and frozen for later use.
5.  Ginger is a British slang word for “red head”.  Hello, Ron Weasely!

Now that you’ve learned a little more about ginger, pick up a piece at your local market and let’s try a recipe!   Daniel Baylis, a Canadian blogger and world traveler, wrote a terrific post about how he learned to make ceviche from a wise Peruvian woman.  The recipe features ginger and the photos transport you right into the woman’s kitchen.  The meal looks so delicious that I wish a plate of it magically appeared in my hands at the end of the scroll.  What do you think, are you brave enough to try this ginger dish?  

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