What Does Ginger Taste Like
Ginger has been cultivated for thousands of years in Asia, where it’s grown on farms or as part of an extensive domestic gardening enterprise. In North America, however, commercial cultivation of ginger didn’t begin until 1866. Whether wild or farmed, ginger has a long history of being used to add heat, zest and depth of flavor to everything from salads and stir fries to cakes and desserts. It’s also widely believed that ancient Egyptians were among the first people known to have eaten ginger — and they did so with great enthusiasm. The pharaohs would often serve their own personal supply of this aromatic herb at feasts held during celebrations such as weddings, coronations and religious festivals.
The popularity of ginger seems to grow every year, and there are many reasons why. Fresh ginger root is pungent, spicy, and sweet, and while ground ginger retains some of that pepper spice and sweetness, its flavor is much more mild. If you seek out a very high-quality ground ginger, you might find the flavor more intense and reminiscent of the flavor of fresh. But if you’re just looking for something simple to use in your favorite recipes, then you can give up some of those complex flavors by using peeled, minced ginger instead.
Ginger tastes similar to turmeric, but the two spices aren’t even closely related botanically. Turmeric is actually a rhizome (a bulbous stem) belonging to the same plant family as ginger, whereas true ginger comes from the tropical climbing vine Zingiber officinale Rosc.. Despite this difference, both spices share a common ingredient: the compound gingerol, which gives them their characteristic taste.
In addition to having a unique taste, ginger contains other chemicals and nutrients. Its leaves contain vitamin C, manganese, copper and fiber; its fruit contains vitamins A and C, calcium and iron; and its roots include potassium, phosphorus and zinc.
Read on to learn about different types of ginger and how to prepare them for cooking.
Types of Ginger
There are three basic varieties of ginger: white, pink and black. White ginger is harvested when its skin is still thin and not fully developed; it tends to be less pungent than pink or black ginger. Pink and black ginger are harvested when the skin develops into tougher layers called “red skins.” Black ginger is usually sold in dried form because its red skin protects the flesh from moisture, making drying easier and preserving longer shelf life. This type of ginger tends to retain more of its natural heat, giving it a stronger flavor. Pink and black gingers can sometimes be found with thinner red skins, but these versions tend to have a milder taste than dry versions.
White ginger is generally cut before the next harvest season begins, typically around late fall. When preparing white ginger, slice off small chunks of the root and peel away the tough outer covering. You’ll want to remove only the top portion of each piece, leaving behind most of the tender inside. To prepare minced ginger, simply mince the root and squeeze any excess liquid out of the pieces. Then chop finely, grind into paste or grate finely for use in cake frostings.
Next time you cook a meal featuring ginger, try roasting it whole over medium-high heat along with onions and potatoes. Or, place chopped ginger into butter and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add curry powder and salt to taste, and garnish with fresh cilantro.
To make ginger tea, boil 2 cups water with 3 tablespoons grated ginger. Steep for 5 minutes, strain through a fine sieve, and drink immediately. For extra flavor, add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and honey to taste.
For more delicious ways to enjoy ginger, continue reading!
Although all parts of the ginger plant are edible, the best tasting ones come from young plants between four months and one year old [Source: USDA]. Older specimens start producing seeds, and younger plants produce flowers. Young ginger should be trimmed of leaves and soft stems and scrubbed clean. Minced ginger should be rinsed thoroughly under cold running water and squeezed to release excess juice before chopping.
If you’ve purchased fresh ginger, don’t worry about peeling it before using. Most cooks who prefer to purchase powdered ginger do peel it, though. Peel ginger by cutting off the top and bottom ends, holding it firmly against a flat surface like a countertop, and shaving off the thick, fibrous skin with a sharp knife. Once the skin is removed, scrape the remaining flesh with a spoon or vegetable peeler. After removing the last bit of skin, rinse well with cold water.
When purchasing canned or jarred ginger, look for brands labeled julienne or minced. These products will likely already be peeled and ready to go. If you’d rather peel your own ginger, put a few slices on paper towels and rub gently with a damp cloth. Rinse well and pat dry. You may need to soak sliced ginger overnight in milk or vinegar to soften the skin enough to strip. Use a paring knife to carefully shave off the tough outer layer. Place peeled ginger into a bowl filled with cool water, swishing it around with your fingers to loosen the dirt and debris. Strain through cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator.
If you’d rather buy pre-minced ginger, it’s available in bags at Asian markets, supermarkets and online. Look for packages marked “fresh,” “frozen” or “prepared.” Pre-cut ginger doesn’t require peeling and can easily be added to sauces, stir fry dishes and marinades. Simply unroll a package of prepared ginger and wash, peel and slice as needed. Ground ginger looks like coarsely ground pepper, but it isn’t quite the same thing. Read on to discover what makes ground ginger special.
A handful of studies suggest ginger may improve circulation, reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. However, there are also conflicting reports about whether ginger may increase bleeding risk in men taking anticoagulant medication such as aspirin. Talk to your doctor first if you plan to take medical supplements containing ginger.
Although fresh ginger is highly regarded for its distinctive flavor, it has drawbacks: It must be peeled and cut lengthwise, which means wasting valuable prep work. Prepared ginger, especially ground ginger, offers a convenient solution to these problems. Not only does it preserve the healthful properties of the original version, but it also provides a consistent amount of ginger flavoring without requiring peeling or chopping.
Since fresh ginger has a strong bite, many cooks turn to ground ginger to boost its flavor and replace lost strength. However, ground ginger isn’t entirely made from gingerroot. Instead, it’s ground ginger cured after harvesting and drying. Although it’s possible to cure ginger by itself, curing helps it retain its heat and flavor better. Typically, curing involves slicing ginger and soaking it in brine for several weeks. During this process, the sugar turns into alcohol and the pungency fades. A curing ratio of eight ounces of raw ginger per quart of water is recommended.
After curing, ground ginger loses about half of its weight. As a result, it becomes softer and easier to handle, allowing for finer grinding. Many cooks say buying ground ginger results in a product with a gentler, smoother taste than fresh. If you decide to use fresh ginger, always keep it refrigerated once you open it, since it spoils quickly.
Now that you know how to choose and store your ginger, read on to learn about how to extract the most flavorful essence.
While fresh ginger is naturally hot, it shouldn’t be consumed raw due to its spiciness. Raw ginger may burn the mouth, throat and tongue. Cooking reduces the intensity of its fiery nature, and washing it removes even more of the capsaicin oil responsible for the burning sensation.
Extracting Flavor From Ginger
Most people know that adding garlic to food amplifies the aroma and flavor. But ginger has another trick up its sleeve — extracting flavor from the tiny hairs that cover its skin. By crushing or bruising ginger, you free the volatile oils within. To get the most flavorful experience from extracted ginger, consider trying one of the following methods:
Shaking: Wrap a large wad of bruised ginger in plastic wrap and shake vigorously to break apart lumps. Squeeze ginger repeatedly to force juices out. Set aside to allow liquids to settle. Pour clear fluid into glass jars, discard sediment, wipe down the jar rims, cap and seal. Refrigerate for up to six months.
Stirring: Grate fresh ginger directly into warm soup or sauce.
Crushing: Finely crush fresh ginger in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon.
Bruising: Crush fresh ginger in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon. Let stand 15 minutes, stir, and repeat.
Once you’ve got the recipe dialed in, check out our list below to find links to additional tasty information.
One of the easiest ways to incorporate ginger into meals is to sprinkle it atop ice cream sundaes or pound it into cakes. Other popular uses include stirring it into yogurt, tossing
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