Native to tropical Asia, ginger is a rhizomatous perennial to about 90cm high, producing many fibrous leaf stalks sheathed in alternating lanceolate leaves. The plump rhizomes, known as ‘hands’ are pale yellow when freshly dug. The yellow flowers, with purple lips and green bracts, are arranged in dense, club like spikes. They are followed by fleshy, three valved capsules. The spring shoots and flower buds of the myoga variety are popular in Japanese cuisine, and the cassumar variety is used in South East Asia.
This plant grows best in rich, moist well drained soil and requires warm temperature to sub tropical conditions. Grow by seed or from rhizome segments, cutting so that each segment contains one or two buds. Remember to keep the soil moist.
For fresh culinary use, dig up the rhizomes in late summer or early autumn. If drying, do so about 10 months after planting.
Young ginger is tender and sweet, with a spicy, tangy, warm to hot flavour. Older plants are stronger, hotter and more fibrous. The Japanese variety is widely used as a sushi condiment. In Asian, Caribbean and African cuisine, this rhizome is an essential ingredient in curries, stews, soups, salads, pickles, chutneys, marinades, stir fries and meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Fresh ginger’s uses are mostly savoury; whereas when crystallized it is used in baked goods, or eaten on its own as confectionery, often sugar coated.
When dried, it is much hotter than fresh. When dried and ground it is used in baking and in commercial spice mixtures. This together with ginger essential oil are used in commercial food flavouring, while extracts are used in cordials, ginger beer and ginger ale.
If you are going to use essential oil in your kitchen, remember to make sure it is organic! I sell a lovely range of essential oils that I use in my kitchen.
information sourced from The Complete Book of Herbs