A perennial crop that produces green-purple flowers resembling orchids. The root of this plant is the most desirable part, and is often used for its medicinal properties and in cooking. It has a tan skin, and a flesh that can be any color between pale green/yellow to ivory. It tastes peppery and spicy, and a little sweet. The aroma is strong and pungent.
Ginger root's oil is highly volatile, meaning it vaporizes when exposed to air. When using ginger, slice off just what you need from the root. Peel away the brown outer layer and working against the grain, chop, grate or slice the fibrous flesh. To extract ginger juice, the most potent part of the root, wrap grated ginger in cheesecloth and squeeze. Keep the unused portions of the tuber wrapped in plastic or paper towels in the refrigerator; they will keep for up to 2 weeks.
Ginger is also recommended to relieve the symptoms of colds. To use, put a piece of fresh ginger in a hot cup of Indian tea (or any tea) and drink.
Shelf Life: Fresh, unpeeled ginger keeps up to 3 weeks in the fridge tightly wrapped in plastic or frozen for 6 months.
It's not recommended to use dried, ground ginger in place of fresh ginger since the flavors are vastly different.
Ginger is a knotted, thick, beige underground stem (rhizome). The stem extends roughly 12 inches above ground with long, narrow, ribbed, green leaves, and white or yellowish-green flowers.
Ginger Root on the other hand, looks like a swelling-rippled root. The skin is shinny with little dry spots. Depending on the plant, Ginger root doesn't come in one size.
Selecting and Buying
Plant ginger in a pot for growing indoors or out! Using a rich potting mixture, choose a pot at least four times the size of your ginger rhizome or plant it in the large pot that will be its permanent home on your patio, deck, or other outdoor garden area. Fill the pot three-quarters full of potting mixture; lay your rhizome flat on top and cover it with about an inch of soil. Keep the pot in a sunny location until sprouts appear, then move it to an area with good indirect light. Ginger won’t tolerate bright, direct light.
Start a small plant for transplanting into your garden. Plant your ginger root directly into a pot filled with rich potting mixture. Cover the pot with a plastic bag and place it on a sunny windowsill. When the first shoots appear, remove the plastic bag. If all danger of frost is past, move your young ginger plant directly into your garden. Alternatively put the pot in a location where it will get indirect sunlight. Water it regularly, but be sure not to let the soil become saturated.
Your ginger plant will grow two to four feet tall. Slender stems and narrow, glossy leaves may reach up to a foot long and resemble the foliage of a lily. Occasionally, your ginger may produce a yellow green flower, but flowers are both rare and unnecessary for the health of the plant.
Ginger is not frost hardy so in temperate areas bring plants indoors for the winter and ignore it! Foliage will yellow and die back, but the plant will return to growth in the spring.
Harvest ginger after the rhizome has grown three to four months. Since the best time to plant ginger is in the spring, this usually means a fall harvest. Harvested ginger root is usually sun-dried for longer preservation. It can either be stored in a dry cupboard or refrigerated.
Preparation and Use
Young ginger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a very mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can also be stewed in boiling water to make ginger tea, to which honey is often added; sliced orange or lemon fruit may also be added. Ginger can also be made into candy.
Mature ginger roots are fibrous and nearly dry. The juice from old ginger roots is extremely potent and is often used as a spice in Indian recipes, and is an quintessential ingredient of Chinese, Japanese and many South Asian cuisines for flavoring dishes such as seafood or goat meat and vegetarian cuisine.
Ginger acts as a useful food preservative.
Fresh ginger can be substituted for ground ginger at a ratio of 6 to 1, although the flavors of fresh and dried ginger are somewhat different. Powdered dry ginger root is typically used as a flavoring for recipes such as gingerbread, cookies, crackers and cake, ginger ale, and ginger beer.
Candied ginger is the root cooked in sugar until soft, and is a type of confectionery.
Fresh ginger may be peeled before eating. For longer-term storage, the ginger can be placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated or frozen.
Conserving and Storing
Store in the refrigerator. If you'll be using your fresh ginger root in the near future, wrap the ginger in a towel and place it in a sealed plastic bag. Put the bag in the refrigerator. The root should stay fresh for up to three weeks.
Freeze your ginger root. Use a similar method for freezing ginger root (wrap in a towel and place in a plastic bag). The root will last up to three months in the freezer.
Dry the ginger root. Dried ginger root is commonly used in baking, including in ginger cookies. To dry ginger, grate the root and allow it to dry on a cookie sheet in a cool, dry place for three to four days. When completely dry, place in clean jars or plastic bags. The root will keep for up to one year.
Pickle it. Pickled ginger root is a delicacy in many Asian cuisines. To pickle the root, place it in a sterile bottle of vinegar or sherry and allow to sit in the liquid inside the refrigerator for two to three weeks. The ginger will keep up to a year in the refrigerator.