This powerfully spicy tuber originated in Southern China, and spread to Southeast Asia, West Africa and the Caribbean. Although there’s evidence that the Romans used it, the root disappeared in Europe after their fall and only returned as an expensive spice during Marco Polo’s expeditions to the East. It’s believed that it was in the court of Queen Elizabeth I where the first gingerbread man biscuits were made to replicate the shapes of important guests, later becoming a traditional Christmas treat. Today ginger continues to be a staple spice in South Asian cuisine and used by creative chefs all over the world.
This tropical root is only grown indoors in the UK and harvested in the early spring. However, imported ginger is available year-round.
-Fresh ginger: While it’s a little more difficult to peel, fresh ginger has a much more rewarding flavour, though one trick to avoid peeling problems is to slice it very thinly. Besides being used in food recipes, fresh ginger can be boiled with water to make ginger tea, ale or liquor, or crystallized in sugar and eaten like candy,
-Ground or powered ginger: Its flavour is very different from that of fresh ginger and tends to be used as a flavouring to cookies, gingerbread and cakes.
When buying fresh ginger, look for roots with a smooth and clear skin. If buying ground or powdered ginger, check the expiration date to make sure it’s fresh, as its flavour loses strength with time.
Keep fresh ginger in a paper bag in the refrigerator for a few weeks. To keep it for longer, keep peeled in a jar with sherry for a few months and use for stir-frying.
For longer storage, freeze fresh ginger in a vacuum sealed bag and store for up to a year. While it will be soggy, it will retain its flavour and can be used for cooked dishes.