Pungent, spicy ginger root is one of popular root herb of culinary as well as medicinal importance. The root ginger composes unique phyto-chemical compounds and still finds a special place in many traditional Indian and Chinese medicines for its disease preventing and health promoting properties.
The spicy root is actually an underground rhizome of small herb plant belonging to the Zingiberaceae family, of the genus: Zingiber.
Scientific name: Zingiber officinale.
|Ginger herb.||Fresh ginger root.
Note for knobby surface.
Ginger is thought to have originated in the Himalayan foothills of Northern India. Today, it is widely grown all over the world as a major commercial spice crop. Ginger plant grows to about a meter in height and features thin grass like dark-green leaves and small yellow flowers.
Its root features knotty finger-like projections that grow downward from the ground surface. Fresh raw root has a silver gray outer surface. Cut sections feature creamy white, yellow, or red-colored crunchy flesh depending upon the variety. The root often contains fibrils running through its center, especially in over-mature roots. Ginger has pungent, spicy and aromatic smell that comes from essential oils and phenolic compounds such as gingerols and shogaols in the root.
Galangal (Alpinia galanga), also known as blue ginger, is closely related herb that is used extensively in East Asian regions, especially in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesian cuisine. Galangal has mild, subtle flavor and less pungent than ginger.
Ginger root has been in use since ancient times for its anti-inflammatory, carminative, anti-flatulent, and anti-microbial properties. Total antioxidant strength measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of ginger root is 14840 µmol TE/100 g.
It contains health benefiting essential oils such as gingerol, zingerone, shogaol, farnesene, and small amounts of ß-phelladrene, cineol, and citral. Gingerols help improve the intestinal motility and have been anti-inflammatory, painkiller (analgesic), nerve soothing, anti-pyretic as well as anti-bacterial properties. Studies have shown that it may decrease nausea induced by motion sickness or pregnancy and may help relieve migraine headache.
Studies suggest that zingerone, a chemical compound which gives pungent character to the ginger root, is effective against E.coli induced diarrhea, especially in children.
This herb root only has 80 calories per 100 g and contains no cholesterol. Nonetheless, it composes many essential nutrients and vitamins such as pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5) that are required for optimum health.
Furthermore, it also holds good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure.
Its extraction is used as a vehicle to mask bitterness and after-taste in traditional ayurvedic preparations.
Gingerols increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract and have analgesic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. Studies have shown that it may help reduce nausea caused by motion sickness or pregnancy and may help relieve migraine.
|Fresh ginger roots in a market.|
Ginger can be grown as home garden plant or as potherb so that its fresh roots and leaves can be readily picked up for immediate use. In the store, however, choose organic, fresh root over the dried form since it is superior in quality and flavor.
Fresh roots should feature heavy in hand, stout, juicy, has grey-yellow peel and free from dark spots or mold. Dried, powdered, or ground root can also be found in these stores; however, they may contain significantly decreased levels of volatile oils like gingerols.
Fresh root can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a month or so. Powdered/ground ginger should be stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers.
Wash fresh ginger root in cold running water or rinse for few minutes to remove any sand, soil or pesticide residues. Fresh root has pungent flavor, and spicy, peppery taste that may hit the senses in palate and nostrils. In order to keep its fragrance and flavors intact, it is generally added at the last moment in the cooking recipes since prolonged cooking results in evaporation of essential oils.
Fresh or dried ginger root along with garlic, cilantro, onion, tomato, cumin and mustard-seeds made to a flavorful curry paste which is then added to variety of vegetable, meat and curry/soup preparations.
Fresh root ginger can be used in the preparation of variety of spicy snacks, candies, and ginger bread in the food industry.
Ginger tea is a popular drink in many Asian countries.
Ginger stimulates many secretary glands in the body; it has "sialogogic" effect (increases salivary juice secretion in the mouth) on salivary glands; increase bile secretion and its release. Therefore, the root may be contraindicated in patients with history of gallstones.
Ginger root is also known to potentiate the toxicity of anti-coagulant drug warfarin, resulting in severe bleeding episodes. (Medical disclaimer).
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