If there’s one spice that both Eastern and Western medicine agree on, it’s ginger. The first written records of ginger are dating back to Shennong, a historical Chinese figure often referred to as the father of traditional Chinese medicine. It was also celebrated by foodie philosopher Confucius, who admired it for its healing powers.
Ginger’s fame and favour spread quickly to the western world. To ancient Romans, it was a symbol of wealth and fertility, and even as far back as 2400 B.C., the Greeks were making it into gingerbread. In ancient India, practitioners of Ayurveda called ginger “the great medicine,” and that’s high praise indeed from one of the world’s oldest medicinal practices.
As the spice trade flourished, Europe developed a taste for ginger, both its flavour and medicinal properties. Henry the VIII used it to build up his resistance to the plague, and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I had it turned into gingerbread to distribute as gifts to favoured members of her court.
Countless modern scientific studies have been published that focus on ginger’s healing properties—and for good reason. Ginger has been used for thousands of years in both Eastern and Western medicine for the treatment of numerous ailments, including gastrointestinal issues, colds, migraines, and hypertension, to name just a few.
Below are two ginger recipes, for fun.
Ginger “tea” can be traced back to both traditional Chinese medicine and also to the European tradition of sprinkling ginger on beer or ale and stirring it with a hot poker, producing essentially the first ginger ale. We suggest you enjoy it as a tonic or a treat.
Ginger and Vinegar ‘Tea’ Drink(serves 2)
3 cups hot water (the same temperature you would use to make tea)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
Put the ginger, sugar, and vinegar in a pot and add the hot water.
Bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat and steep 30 minutes.
To enjoy the full medicinal properties of this ginger “tea,” drink a small hot cup up to three times daily.
Note: Adjust the amount of ginger to your taste. Many like to use enough ginger so the throat tingles when you drink it. You can almost feel it working its magic!
If you leave the ginger steeping in the liquid and reheat, be aware that the flavour will have deepened.
Pickled ginger, known as gari in Japanese, is that wonderful condiment served alongside sushi or sashimi. It’s also a great palate cleanser and can be eaten to complement other dishes the same way you might use relish or chutney—on a sandwich, for example. Add it to stir-fries or fruit salads, or use in a vinaigrette for green salads or in your marinades for meat or fish.
Sweet and Sour Pickled Ginger
2 pounds fresh young ginger root
3 tablespoons salt
3 cups of rice wine vinegar (we suggest using best quality unseasoned vinegar)
2 cups granulated sugar
Wash, drain, and peel the ginger. Slice thinly and place in a bowl with the salt. Stir to be sure all the ginger is salted. Leave the ginger in the salt for no less than an hour, and preferably three. Pour off all liquid that has formed, rinse the ginger in the bowl, and soak in cool water for 10 minutes. Drain the ginger and dry on a paper towel. Put the dry ginger slices into an oil-free, sterilized heat-resistant glass container or jar.
Mix rice vinegar and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil. When the mixture begins boiling, there will be a strong vinegar aroma. Once the aroma has begun to dissipate, remove from heat, let cool for 2 or 3 minutes, and pour the hot vinegar and sugar mixture over the ginger slices. When cooled, seal the jar and place in the refrigerator.
Several hours later (minimum 3 to 4 hours), the ginger will turn slightly pink. It will be more pink if your ginger is young, and less so if you’re using an older rhizome. The following day, it will be even more pink. The reaction of the best rice vinegars on the ginger causes this change.
The pickled ginger can be stored in its airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 year. Some people choose to drain the majority of the pickling liquid, and others allow the ginger to remain in the brine. The pickled sweet-and-sour taste will deepen if the liquid is left in the jar.
Note: Make sure you’re working with very clean hands and a clean container. Sterilize your glass container or jar by boiling it in water for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jar stay (clean) in the water until you’re ready to use it.