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Ginger is a versatile spice being used either in sweet or savoury foods. Ginger comes fresh as a whole rhizome, dried as a powder or preserved in sugar.

Ginger has a warm and refreshing smell. Ginger's flavour is pungent, with a hot and warming freshness, and some sweetness as a fresh rhizome or when preserved in sugar. Dried ginger is less aromatic, but its flavour is more intense - fiery hot and penetrating.

Ginger is the rhizome - usually called the ginger root - that is the source of the spice. The ginger rhizome grows underground in tuberous joints, creating something that looks like a knuckled hand with swollen, plump fingers. Ginger rhizomes are encircled in scales, covered in a beige coloured skin that covers the pale tan to white fibrous flesh. Prepare ginger by removing the skin and slicing or grating.

Early harvested ginger is sweeter and more tender. This ginger is used for crystallised ginger. The flavour of crystallised is sweet, warming and pungent with a lemony freshness. Sweet or crystallised ginger is used in sweet products from cakes through to chocolates.

Later harvested ginger is pungent and fibrous, so is used for the culinary spice. Its aroma and flavour is sweet, warming and pungent with a lemony freshness. Fresh ginger can be kept out, although it will dehydrate a little, but not that much. Or you can keep it in your fridge in a plastic bag.

Both fresh and dried, ginger is used in savoury foods, while dried is also used in bakery. Fresh ginger is especially good [[Crushing, grating and slicing fresh spices|sliced and lightly crushed] with beef, chicken and fish, e.g. monkfish, where it adds a lively freshness to the meats. Ginger also reduces the fishy and meaty smells and tastes of these ingredients, freshening and enlivening your dish.

Slices of fresh ginger can be boiled with a little sugar to make a refreshing natural drink, which is good to warm you up. Dried ginger is essential Moroccan tagines and baked goods, such as gingerbread.

Tip: rather than use the fresh root, squeeze a peeled cube of ginger in a garlic press, collect the ginger juice and add that to your cooking liquids.

Other Types of Ginger

Further reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN: 9780778804932.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN: 9781465435989.