Mother Earth Living

In the Medicine Cabinet: Ginger Root

By Staff

Desiree Bell is inspired by botanicals and natural materials. She is a vegetarian who has a certificate in herbal studies and a certificate from Australasian College of Health Sciences in Aromatherapy. When she isn’t in her suburban garden, hiking or crafting, she is teaching pre-k with an emphasis on nature and gardening. For more ideas on Simple Living With Nature you can visit her blogs

The ginger root (Zingiber officinale) is actually a rhizome. The word ginger is derived from the Sanskrit word for ginger, sringa-vera, meaning “antler shaped.” It has buds on the top of each of its stubby fingers and grows a mass of thin, tangled roots below. The roots are scraped off before the ginger arrives at the market.

Ginger is 80 percent water, 2.3 percent water, 1 percent fat, 2.5 percent fibrous material, 1.2 percent minerals, and vitamins of B and C. Medicinally, it is used for the circulatory and digestive systems, coughs, colds, aches and pains.

There are two groups of compounds in the rhizome. The essential oil is the liquid found in tiny vessels just under the corky skin, which is collected by distillation. The other compound is located in the cells dotted around the fleshy interior of the rhizome in between the starch cells. It is extracted with alcohol or a solvent.

Ginger does best in a hot, moist climate, with a little shade at noon and well-drained soil. It is grown as a crop in countries such as India, Australia, Jamaica, China and Nigeria. Many years ago I read in the book Herbal Treasures (Storey Publishing, LLC, 1990), by Phyllis Shaudys, how to grow a ginger root inside the house using a rhizome from the market.

Cut a piece of ginger root from the rhizome. Make sure the piece you cut to plant has at least one bud on it. Fill a clay pot with potting soil and bury the ginger root cut side down, bud up, 1 inch below the surface. Place in a sunny, warm window, water well, then keep moist. It takes about a month for the first sprout to appear.

To harvest, pull the plant from its pot 8 to 12 months after planting, cut off leaf stalks, and remove fibrous roots. Cut off as much ginger as you can use and replant the rest. Many winters I have grown a nice looking ginger plants. Try it!

Fresh ginger produces a warm, spicy and refreshing aroma. Its taste is pungent, aromatic, lemony, and slightly bitter. Dried ginger is less lemony and more warm, woody and pungent. Besides fresh and dried, it is used pickled, preserved and crystallized in cooking. Here is a tasty and healthy Indian Lemonade-Ginger Ale recipe I found in a vegetarian magazine many years ago.

Photo by sweetbeetandgreenbean/Courtesy Flickr

Indian Lemonade-Ginger Ale
Makes 8 cups

• 8 cups sparkling water (club soda)
• ½ cup fresh lime juice
• 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1 ½ cups maple syrup
• ½ tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher or punch bowl.

2. Serve at room temperature or chilled.  

Thanksgiving will be here soon so I have included a recipe from the book, The Ginger Book (Avery, 1996), by Stephen Fulder, Ph.D., for Ginger Pumpkin Pie. This book was also used as a reference for some of this article.

Ginger Pumpkin Pie
Makes 16 servings

• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 ¾ ounce piece fresh ginger, grated
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon salt
• ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 ½ cups pureed boiled pumpkin
• 1 cup brown sugar
• ½ cup buttermilk
• 7 tablespoons butter or vegetable shortening
• 3 eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch diameter flan tins.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon , and cloves. Add the pumpkin, brown sugar, buttermilk and butter or shortening: beat briefly. Add the eggs and beat again.

3. Pour the batter into the flan tins and place the tins in the oven. Bake until the pies are firm, about 45 minutes. Let cool before serving.

If you bake this pie let me know how it turned out. I have not made it yet.

Happy Thanksgiving….

  • Published on Nov 9, 2009
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