A Sweet Spice
Whether pickled or planted, ginger is a versatile root with health benefits that date back nearly 2000 years. Ginger root (Zingiber officinale) is used fresh in cooking, pickled as an accompaniment to spicy Asian cuisine, candied as a sweet treat and ground as a key ingredient in gingerbread and ginger beer.
The underground rhizome of the ginger plant was first discovered in China and I’m so glad it was. I use fresh ginger to add a sweet spicy flavor to many of my favorite recipes from stir fry dishes to delicate curries.
It also makes a warming tea that I sip at the first sign of a sniffle or sore throat in winter.
Pickled ginger is familiar to sushi and sashimi fans because it helps cleanse the palate between different sushi pieces. It also aids digestion and extinguishes the fire that follows a big bite of wasabi.
Pickling Adds Extra Spice
The pickling process for ginger is simple enough, just slice fresh ginger and let it steep in a vinegar and sugar mixture. Some Asian restaurants serve bright pink pickled ginger cut into matchstick size pieces with rice or noodle bowls. Other restaurants have small bowls of thin slices of pickled ginger sitting on the table.
Here’s what you’ll need to do if you’d like to make your own pickled ginger to keep on your table:
½ pound fresh ginger root
6 oz. rice vinegar
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
- Wash and peel the ginger root.
- Cut into easy-to-manage sections.
- Slice thin strips of ginger from the root using a vegetable peeler.
- Place ginger slices in a bowl; salt them and let sit for an hour or more.
- Use paper towels to gently dry the slices and place ginger inside a clean jar.
- Mix rice vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil.
- Pour vinegar mixture over ginger slices.
- Allow mixture to cool and refrigerate.
Pickled ginger will turn a light pink if the ginger is young and fresh; however, older ginger may not change color naturally. Add a drop of red food coloring if you want the pickled ginger to have a delicate pink tinge. The ginger will keep for several months if refrigerated.
Ginger is Also Easy to Grow
Ginger is a perennial plant that grows best in warm, humid climates, but it can also be cultivated in home gardens during warm summer months.
A piece of fresh ginger root, called a race or hand, can be purchased at the grocery store and then started in a container indoors. When the weather warms, the plant can be moved into the garden where the rhizome will grow. The plant resembles a tall lily with narrow green leaves.