Know Your Spice: A Brief History of Ginger
By Katie Priebe
Ginger (Zingiberofficinale), a common spice that was considered a luxury more than 5,000 years ago, has a very rich history.
The Indians and ancient Chinese used the root of ginger as a tonic to treat common ailments. Although ginger originated in Southeast Asia, it was widely cultivated in other countries. By the 1st century, traders had taken ginger into the Mediterranean regions.
Eventually, it became a popular spice in Rome. Unfortunately, the use of ginger fell from use once the Roman Empire fell. At this point, ginger’s worth had increased. It was commonly used to make delicacy sweets in the medieval times.
Ginger has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices. It was valued for its medicinal merits: it is a popular warming spice, a digestive aid, and sometimes used to treat flatulence and colic. Today, ginger is easily accessible in local grocery stores and throughout markets, but back in the 14th century it cost about the same amount as a live sheep or piece of livestock!
Which herbs and spices would you like to learn more about?
Photo by Emily Barney/Courtesy Flickr
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