Ginger is one of those spices that does everything. Rather than seeing it as a “Jack of all trades” without ever truly performing well in one area, I see it as a renaissance spice; doing it all and doing it extremely well.
Ginger originally comes to us from Asia and nowadays most of the ginger found in North America is grown in Jamaica.
Ginger is found fresh in most US grocery stores all year round. Quality ginger is firm and vibrant looking. If ginger at your store is wrinkled or soft, request that fresher ginger be made available.
If you take a bite of fresh ginger you’ll notice it’s quite spicy! If you compare fresh ginger with dried ginger you’ll notice that the dried ginger is even spicier. Fresh ginger is classified as warming, while dried ginger is hot. Because of this we use them for different purposes, with more caution being used with dried ginger, as it is more heating.
You know how some people can experience discomfort after eating food that is too spicy for them? The same principle applies here.
Let’s look at a few ways in which ginger can be used.
Ginger tea is often drunk after meals to help with the digestive process. Anytime a meal doesn’t sit right with me, I reach for ginger tea and any digestive disturbances are calmed quickly.
But why wait to drink ginger after eating when you can include it in your meals!
Ginger is a powerful antimicrobial, which is why, like garlic, it has been traditionally used in cooking to help preserve foods and keep them safe for eating. We regularly add ginger to our meals, especially those involving meat.
Ginger is also the herb of choice for motion sickness. When making first aid kits for those who often get car sickness I include ginger candy and ginger tincture; both work quickly to quell the nausea.
Ginger excels at helping relieve many different kinds of pain.
Ginger can calm spasms, making it a great ally for women with menstrual cramping. Ginger can reduce pain receptors and is often used by those with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis to reduce pain. It works especially well for those with arthritic pain who also feel cold or who know that heat can relieve the pain.
Herbalist Steven Buhner recommends cooled ginger tea as an external wash for burns. Not only does it prevent infection, it also acts as a pain reliever.
Ginger is a perfect herb for many symptoms of colds and the flu.
Fever: In the beginning stages of a fever when you feel cold and are shivering, a strong ginger tea is a great way to help your body warm up. In herbalism we call this a stimulating diaphoretic.
Congestion: Ginger keeps mucous flowing and can break up thick congested mucous in the sinuses and lungs. We call this a stimulating expectorant.
Sore Throat: Ginger is antimicrobial and pain relieving. Taken as a tea or as an infused honey it soothes painful sore throats.
Coughs: I recently came down with a cold and I was coughing nonstop especially at night when I laid down to sleep. I found that by sucking on a ginger candy it quelled my cough and relieved my sore throat, and I was soon sleeping peacefully.
Ginger candy can bring welcome relief for colds and the flu or even motion sickness but is also a sweet and spicy treat.
To make ginger candy you’ll need…
- A pound of fresh ginger
- About a pound of sugar
- Kitchen scale (very helpful)
- Wax Paper
Begin by preparing the ginger. I don’t feel that it’s necessary to peel ginger. However, if you’d like to do this I recommend using a spoon to gently scrape off the papery sheath. Once the root is either peeled or well washed, slice it fairly thin, but not paper thin.
Place the sliced ginger into the saucepan and cover it with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 30-40 minutes. It’s done when the ginger has become more translucent.
Drain off the ginger tea and reserve 1/4 cup. The rest you can drink but you may want to dilute it a little since it’s going to be very strong!
To determine how much sugar you will use, weigh the ginger. You’ll use the same amount of sugar by weight. So if your ginger weighs 8 oz then measure out 8 oz of sugar by weight.
Return the ginger to the saucepan along with the sugar and the 1/4 cup of ginger tea.
Turn the stove to medium high heat and stir the ginger frequently. The sugar will quickly dissolve and what will remain is the ginger and the sugar liquid. Once this starts to simmer turn the heat down to medium and continue to stir very frequently.
In between stirrings lay out a sheet of wax paper on the counter.
Total stirring time will be around 20 minutes. During the twenty minutes the liquid will continue to reduce and will finally crystalize. Remove the pan from heat once the mixture looks fairly dry.
Warning: If you don’t stir often enough the mixture will easily scorch.
Lay the ginger out on the prepared wax paper and allow to cool.
Once cool keep these in a covered container in a cool place. They should keep for at least a couple of weeks.