Long an essential part of Asian cuisine and Ayervedic medicine, ginger is also winning over Western doctors
It can be sweet or savoury, hot or fragrant. Crystallised, you can suck it like a sweet or you can take it like a medicine. Ginger has endless uses – which is perhaps why it’s been a staple part of cooking and medicine in China and India for thousands of years. Its versatility has won over cultures all over the world, from the Land of the Rising Sun to the West Indies.
Ginger is part of the aromatic base for most stir-fries and curries. Cook it in a wok with garlic, spring onion and a little chilli, add the meat of your choice followed by some vegetables and then flavour with soy sauce, rice vinegar and a touch of sugar for a simple and delicious supper.
You can make a quick Indian curry by frying finely chopped garlic, onion and ginger and adding a spoonful or turmeric, chilli and salt when the aromatics are starting to brown. Then add small chunks of boneless chicken, mixing with all the flavours. Stir in a couple of dessertspoons of yoghurt and a tin of tomatoes, and cook for around ten minutes or until the sauce has reduced to a thick, glossy consistency. Finish by stirring in a readymade garam masala spice blend and chopped fresh coriander, and there it is – a perfect curry in minutes.
Alternatively, you can perk up a salad with a ginger vinaigrette. Simply chop a small piece of ginger finely, add vinegar – try rice wine vinegar if you have it – along with a touch of olive oil and some sugar.
Ginger tea is one of the best ways to feel the restorative properties of the spice. Simple simmer peeled, sliced ginger in water for half an hour, then discard the pieces of root. Add sugar to taste and a squeeze of lemon or lime for extra zing.
Increasingly, scientific research is supporting the centuries-old beliefs about the health benefits of ginger. It’s a natural diaphoretic, meaning that it warms you from the inside and promotes perspiration. That makes it an ideal pick-me-up in winter, but it may also help the body fight fevers and colds.
Historically, ginger was believed to be good for the digestion, and it can help to reduce the symtoms of motion sickness. It also contains anti-inflammatory compounds, called gingerols, which are believed to help reduce arthritis pains.
There are few downsides to taking ginger – it tastes delicious and may well improve your health. It can interfere with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin, however: so if you’re