Ginger: The King of Culinary Spices
The spice, ginger, is as old as time. It dates back to the Roman Empire over 2000 years ago and was especially valued for its medicinal properties. Its prominence over decades makes it a highly sought-after commodity to export. This spice truly is the diamond of the season for it gains high traction among other spices. This is what we will explore as we look at ginger’s origin, nutrition and uses.
Ginger, popularly known for its generic name, Zingiber officinale, is one of the world’s most prominent spices. For centuries, ginger has been notable as a spice for flavouring food and one of the world’s most powerful herbal medicines.
Ginger’s current name comes from the Middle English gingivere, but this spice dates back over 3000 years to the Sanskrit word srngaveram, meaning “horn body,” based on its appearance. In Latin, it was called zinziberi, and in Greek, ziggiberisi. It is believed that ginger is native to southern China, India and Southeast Asia. However, it is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of the world in countries like Nigeria, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand and many others.
This dried knobby-shaped rhizome plant is among the earliest recorded spices to be grown and exported from southwest India. It is a part of the Zingiberaceae family, including turmeric and cardamom. The distinctive fragrance and flavour of ginger result from volatile oils, primarily consisting of gingerols, zingerone and shogaols as the key pungent compound.
There are many health benefits associated with Ginger. These health benefits include anti-inflammatory properties, blood sugar regulation, and gastrointestinal relief. It is stimulative and helps relieve indigestion, arthritis, flu, stomach ache, diarrhoea, motion sickness and nausea.
According to a 2018 review, the research shows that ginger may help boost movement through the digestive tract, suggesting that it may relieve or prevent constipation. Ginger is linked to elevating saliva flow and improving gastric motility. This helps to alleviate indigestion and associated problems such as bloating and flatulence.
Ginger is also a powerful antioxidant, and its anti-inflammatory properties have been shown in research to help relieve migraines and joint and muscle pain. Ginger is beneficial in treating symptoms of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
Ginger is, in fact, one of Ayurveda’s most treasured spices. It is known to help manage blood sugar levels and regulate diabetes. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas cannot produce insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels. Ginger helps manage diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin. Ginger can be used to manage blood sugar levels by cutting it into strips or grating it over stir-fry recipes. Another way is to make some ginger lemonade, which is healthy and refreshing.
Ginger is most likely your go-to-spice in heightening the flavour of a dish. It is one of the most used spices in the world and comes in diverse forms, including fresh, dried, pickled, liquid extracts, preserved, crystallised, candied, and powdered/ground.
Ginger is highly used in making thick gravies, pulse and lentil curries, and as a spice for tea and coffee (especially in colder months). In its dry and mature state, ginger can be made into a powder used as a spice or as an ingredient in cookies, gingerbread, cakes and crackers. When ginger is finely chopped or grounded, it is the main ingredient of a paste that is mixed with garlic and onions and added to chicken dishes.
Ginger contains about 2 percent essential oil, which is zingiberene and zingerone. The oil is distilled from rhizomes for use in the food and perfume industries. It can even be made into wine if fermented with raisins and mixed (fortified) with brandy. Ginger is a versatile spice used in various forms. No wonder it is the king of culinary spices.