Cooking with ginger dates back to ancient times — and for good reason. It’s packed with flavor and health benefits. Ginger is best known for bringing a lot of flavor and heat and is most commonly used in Asian cooking.
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Oh, ginger. It’s zingy, aromatic, and flavorful. But one of the first things to know about ginger is that it’s harvested from the root of its plant, and that’s why you’ll hear it referred to as ginger root. Ginger resembles cork, but the appearance is where their similarities end. Ginger is flavorful — cork, not so much.
If you’re bored with other spices in your cooking, ginger can take care of that and wake up your taste buds quickly. The scientific name for ginger is zingiber officinale. “Zingiber” comes from the Sanskrit word singabera — which means spice, and ginger packs a lot of it. However, ginger isn’t spicy in the typical hot sauce kind of way. It’s more of a bite, sometimes described as peppery and zesty.
While young ginger is sweeter, more mature ginger hits you with that spice, and this is what you typically find in grocery stores. If you want the sweet stuff, head to the Asian markets near you.
Looks hard and stocky, sort of like a cork. Even though it’s rough and tough on the outside, it can easily be grated and chopped. It’s even a bit juicy. You can use it to flavor sauces, soups, and even meat marinades. Some people add it to smoothies and other beverages for extra health benefits.
Powdered ginger is found in the spice aisle. You can use it to season just about anything; meat, rice, and more. It can be a substitute for fresh ginger on hand, just use less of it.
What comes with your sushi, and that’s because it helps cleanse your palate. It’s bright pink and easy to chew. But it’s also added to other dishes such as stir-frys and tacos.
The whole root comes in its original shape, but of course, it’s dried out and can be ground as needed to season your food or revitalize it. You can also buy dried ginger root that’s cracked into pieces, which is great for making ginger tea.
It looks like pink, hard candies rolled in sugar (sometimes called crystallized ginger). Because it’s cooked in sugar water, it has less bite and more sweetness. People often eat candied ginger as a treat or to reduce nausea and vomiting.
Usually comes in a jar where it’s preserved in a sugar- and salt-based liquid mixture. It’s often added to salads and used in dishes where you don’t apply heat.
When is ginger in season?
Most ginger sold in the United States comes from Hawaii and its peak season is April through August . However, in California, the peak season starts in August and runs through the fall.
How do I select ginger?
When selecting fresh ginger root, look for firm pieces that have a slight shine on the skin. The skin should also be smooth; wrinkles are a sign it’s going bad. You want pieces that are weighty for their size. But despite feeling firm and heavy, the skin should be easily scratchable.
What’s the best way to store it?
The best way to store ginger is in a resealable bag (push the air out) in your crisper drawer. It should last about a month. You can also freeze it to get a couple more months out of it. Where you store depends on how quickly you plan to use it.
How to cook with ginger
First, use a regular ol’ vegetable peeler to peel ginger. If it’s a smaller piece, you should also be able to scrape the skin off with a paring knife easily. A spoon will also work.
Once the ginger is peeled, you can grate it (whip out the cheese grater), mince it (cut into small pieces), or slice it. Also worth noting: you can puree ginger with other ingredients when making sauces and marinades. It helps to cut into chunks first.
To make tea, steep the fresh ginger root first by adding slices to boiling water (about a tablespoon per cup of water, but adjust based on your personal taste).