Legend has it that ancient Indians used their native ginger as a physical and spiritual cleanser. They shunned strong-smelling garlic and onion before religious celebrations for fear of offending their deities, but ate lots of ginger, because it left them smelling sweet and presentable to the gods. Ancient Chinese sailors chewed ginger root to prevent seasickness, and when the root arrived in ancient Greece, it was used as a stomach soother. Physicians prescribed it wrapped with bread, eventually leading to the world’s first cookie, gingerbread, and later to a remedy for upset stomach that is still popular today, ginger ale.
Fresh ginger root is juicy, hot, and fibrous, with a pungent, almost peppery flavor and a refreshing sharpness. The flavor and texture of ginger root varies according to the season in which it is gathered and the length of time it is stored. The older roots tend to be tough, fibrous, and strong-tasting, while the younger roots are mild and tender. If ginger is young and fresh, the skin will be thin and unnecessary to peel; if the skin is tough or shriveled, the skin needs to be peeled before using. The little sprouts that appear on the sides of the root are more delicate in flavor than the main section.
Peeled and ground to a pulp, ginger is a popular ingredient in many recipes. Try adding a few bits of ginger to a pot of chamomile tea for a real treat. Ginger is also available dried and ground to a powder, and candied ginger root is a favorite treat of children and adults because it is healthful and pleasurable to eat.
Ginger rhizomes produce the volatile oil that contains such aromatic substances as camphene, phellandrene, zingiberene and zingerone. These, along with several other chemicals, have made ginger one of the world’s oldest and most popular medicinal spices, used in folk medicine almost everywhere.
Ginger promotes overall circulation of energy in the body by acting as a stimulant for those that are debilitated, lethargic or convalescing from an illness. It aids the digestion and assimilation of food, as well as affecting a systematic cleansing through the skin, bowels and kidneys. Research has shown that ginger is helpful in preventing motion sickness and vertigo. Ginger tea, made by boiling pieces of fresh ginger root in water, promotes cleansing of the system through perspiration, and is also useful for menstrual cramps and bloating. Warm ginger tea at the onset of a cold or flu can help ease the effects of the usual symptoms. The tea is also gentle enough to use during pregnancy to help ease morning sickness or alleviate colds. Chewing fresh-peeled ginger root can help stimulate the flow of saliva and soothe a sore throat.
Salad dressings made with ginger bring a spicy and refreshing taste to almost any vegetable combination. Prepare this easy and delicious dressing and delight in the exotic flavor of ginger.
Ginger Lemon Miso Dressing
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup chickpea miso
- ½ cup alkaline water
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger
Chop a variety of any vegetables and combine with lettuce or dark leafy greens.
Toss everything with a little of the ginger dressing and enjoy.
Brenda Cobb is author of The Living Foods Lifestyle and founder of the Living Foods Institute, an educational center and therapy spa in Atlanta offering Healthy Lifestyle courses on nutrition, cleansing, healing, anti-aging, detoxification, relaxation and cleansing therapies. For more information, call 404-524-4488 or 1-800-844-9876 and visit LivingFoodsInstitute.com. See ad, inside front cover.