Ginger is native to India and China; it gets its name from the Sanskrit word stringa-vera meaning `with a body like a horn', which is a nice way of describing its antler-ish appearance and bullish strength.
Ginger is a funny looking root. You see it in knobbly piles on market stalls, often ignored. But now is the time to stock up. Post-Christmas, when you feel like you’ve got foie gras flowing through your veins and can barely manage another chocolate coin, nothing beats some zingy ginger tea to cut through it. It’s best to make ginger tea super strong, peeling a large lobe of fresh ginger first, as it may have fungicides on the skin, and then chopping it finely into a teapot. Grating works well too, though if the result is too fine it can get stuck in the spout. After pouring on boiling water let your tea brew for a good ten minutes. The result is warm and spicy and clean; it’s one of those drinks you can feel doing you good, banishing any sluggish feeling from your system. You can add some lemon and Manuka honey for a real healing package, perfect for battling a sore throat and catarrh.
Ginger is native to India and China; it gets its name from the Sanskrit word stringa-vera meaning ‘with a body like a horn’, which is a nice way of describing its antler-ish appearance and bullish strength. Ginger can be used to add fiery warmth to a wide range of dishes and drinks. You can grate it into salad dressings, add it to curries or soups, shave it through oriental noodles or a chicken and cashew stir-fry, muddle it into mojitos or a French punch gingembre (ginger punch). Ginger has been around for years, arriving on English shores as far back as the 9th Century when it was one of the most prominent and powerful spices, hot on the heels of salt and pepper. It was hoped ginger would help ward off the Plague, though it was more commonly used as a remedy for colds and flu. When you’re drinking or eating ginger in substantial quantities you can feel it heating you up, making your face flush and even sweat like when eating a vigorous curry. Ginger brings the blood to the surface of the skin, which helps fight infection. Chewing a small strip of it also helps if you’re feeling queasy.
Fresh ginger will last a couple of weeks at home, though is best kept in the fridge if you want to avoid it becoming wrinkly and crimped at the fingers. Its flesh can sometimes appear a bit purplish on peeling the skin, which is not a great sign as the tea from this then turns out to be a bit milky and bitter. I always take the purple tinge as proof of the magic and wizardry of this root though.
Other options are dried or powdered ginger though these have a notably different taste. (In the 19th Century bartenders would keep powdered ginger on the bar for people to sex up their pints of beer with.) Stem ginger in syrup makes a delicious addition to a sticky ginger cake and can also be eaten with vanilla ice-cream or just as a sweet. Stem ginger is made from the fresh young roots, which are then cut into manageable pieces and cooked in a dense sugar syrup; the result is a tangy treat, of which Fortnum & Mason do a pretty covetable batch – a great gift in lieu of chocolates. Fentemann’s Ginger Beer is an easy way to enjoy ginger’s values, especially as a Moscow Mule with a tipple of vodka and lots of fresh lime. Fentemann’s can make you sneeze it’s so fiery and comes in quaint old-fashioned bottles from Waitrose and various pubs.
Nothing beats making yourself a healthy kick-ass brew from the real deal though. So fish your wizened ginger out the fruit bowl and get chopping.
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