Down & Dirty

Ginger and How to Enjoy it at Every Meal

By • February 8, 2014 • 15 Comments

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: We're escaping winter and taking a tropical staycation in our kitchen. Join us and get to know ginger.

Ginger and How to Enjoy it at Every Meal

The next time someone mentions ginger root, casually mention that ginger is actually a rhizome -- like lotus root -- and not a root. They’ll either be wowed with their newfound knowledge, or you’ll get a full body eyeroll. We think either response is gratifying in its own way.

Most of the ginger you’ll come across is mature ginger: It’s harvested when the plant is around 7 to 10 months old, and it has light brown skin (2, below) and creamy yellow flesh (1, below). If you slice into your ginger and see blue streaking through it, don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong. This just means you’ve stumbled upon Hawaiian blue-ring ginger. It’s available between December and April, and it is especially juicy and aromatic.

One other type of fresh ginger to keep on your radar is young ginger (also called spring or baby ginger). Since it’s harvested earlier, it has thinner skin, and doesn’t need to be peeled. The texture of young ginger is less fibrous, and is frequently sliced and turned into pickles (this is where the pink pile that comes with your sushi comes from). Young ginger doesn’t travel well, but you don’t have to live in a tropical locale to try it -- it’s starting to be grown in colder locations too.

Ginger and How to Enjoy it at Every Meal

When selecting ginger at the store, look for firm, heavy hands -- that’s what the rhizomes are called -- and pass on any that look wrinkled or show signs of mold. If you only need a small amount for your recipe, Diane Morgan assures us: “When ginger is sold loose, it is perfectly acceptable to break off a small portion from the hand.” We say go ahead and buy the whole hand -- we'll help you put it to good use.

Ginger will keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator (wrap it in a dry cloth or paper towel and then place it in an open plastic bag or container), and you have other storage options too: You can freeze the whole hand, with the skin on. While frozen, you can go ahead and grate it -- skin and all -- on a microplane. Another option is to store it in the refrigerator in a jar filled with sherry. Diana B explains why this is her favorite storage method: “It retains its texture for quite a while, and you have lovely ginger-flavored sherry to put in soups.”

Ginger and How to Enjoy it at Every Meal

To peel ginger, grab a spoon with a thin edge (3), and scrape away the skin (Need a visual?) -- you’ll waste the least amount of ginger. If you find this tedious, it’s fine to use a small knife, but note that ginger’s most tender portion is right below the peel, so you’re more likely to slice that off when you’re using a knife. From there, slice, mince, or grate the ginger. If your recipe calls for ginger juice, grab your box grater and read these tips. Once you have that ginger juice, Amanda reminds us that it can be used as a flavor brightener -- the ginger flavor won’t even necessarily be detectable.

More: Here are 4 other dish-brighteners that you should keep on call.

Ginger shines in gingerbread and ginger ale, and it is frequently called upon to help settle upset stomachs and ease nausea, but don’t stop there. Here’s how to work ginger into every meal:

Cranberry-Ginger Jam Donuts Quinoa, Mango, Avocado Salad with Lemony Ginger Dressing

Breakfast
Spread some honey ginger almond butter on toast, sip a banana chai ginger smoothie, or grab a pear ginger walnut muffin as you head out the door. Not in a rush? Get a healthy start to your day: Break out your juicer for carrot apple Ginger Juice or enjoy whole-grain, butter-free honey orange ginger waffles. Ginger can be downright indulgent too -- if you're in the mood to splurge, go for a Cranberry-Ginger Jam Donut.

Lunch
Ginger can put a little zip into your lunchtime soup and salad combo. Try a citrus ginger tofu salad with soba noodles, a cabbage salad with miso ginger dressing, or ginger miso vinaigrette on butter lettuce. Boost your salad with quinoa, mango, avocado, and a lemony ginger dressing, and warm up with a bowl of creamy carrot ginger bisque, a roasted beet, blood orange, and ginger soup, or mushroom ginger soup with barley.

Gingered Lemon PUnch Mashed Pea Guacamole with Cilantro, Ginger, and Lime

Drinks and Hors d'Oeuvre
Ginger in your drink doesn’t just mean ginger ale -- although you can make that too. For your next cocktail hour, try ginger sangria, gingered lemon punch, or an apple ginger hot toddy. While you sip, snack on mashed pea guacamole with cilantro, ginger, and lime and gingered beer pickles.

Lemongrass Ginger Patties Ginger Ice Cream with Honey Sesame Brittle

Dinner
Ginger and rice are made for each other: Try lemongrass ginger patties, onigiri with ginger Kewpie mayo, or put an egg on it with genius ginger fried rice. If your vegetables want to play along, make ginger shallot broccoli. Or go for ramen stir-fry, spicy ginger-orange tofu, or a tuna burger with wasabi ginger mayo.

Dessert
Take standard ginger snaps up a notch with whole wheat and triple the ginger (go the extra mile and make your own candied ginger), and boost gingerbread with chocolate in a spicy chocolate ginger cake. Bake up a gingered cranberry-pear pie or a ginger apple torte. Or grab a spoon and tuck into a bowl of ginger ice cream or ginger poached pears.

Let us know your favorite ways to use ginger in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom 

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Tags: down and dirty, diagrams, special diets, tropical, ginger, ginger root, young ginger, stem ginger, blue-ring ginger

Comments (15)

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5 months ago MARIA DE LUGO

Yes !!! to all of the above, especially the vodka ginger. When I cannot consume all of my ginger I let it air dry. It shrinks into beautiful, exotic figures. I have one that looks like a pony. My grand-daughter begs me for it every time she comes to visit. One day I will relent. MdL

Stringio

6 months ago Gay Stevens

In my comment below, I talked about how well storing ginger in sherry works. Since writing that, I discovered that finecooking.com did an 8 week experiment comparing several different methods of storage. Two methods emerged as best...ginger submerged in vodka, and ginger stored in a zip top bag. Both in the refrigerator. So given the reliability of Fine Cooking magazine, I definitely plan to use vodka next time. And I bet it will last longer than 8 weeks in the plastic bag.

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6 months ago Panfusine

My mother would have me drink the juice from freshly grated & squeezed ginger the first thing in the morning after I had my son, supposedly cleansed the system (traditional home remedy from South India) . For some reason that my Doctor could not figure out and could not cure with conventional treatment, it completely took care of a serious case of post partum edema within days.

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6 months ago walkie74

Ginger in sherry... hmmm...wonder if it would work with vodka?

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6 months ago Panfusine

It works WONDERULLY in Vodka, I have a bottle of vodka infused with ginger & cardamom. (predominantly ginger flavor though) and it makes for a Deadly moscow mule!
http://dish-a-day-panfusine...

Stringio

6 months ago Gay Stevens

Yes!!! See my comment above!

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6 months ago Lyle Gerard

I drop a peeled slug of ginger into my diet ginger ale - I swirl it before pouring a glass - really ramps up the flavor!

Kse

6 months ago Kenza Saadi

Oh ginger! I just add it to about almost everything! Try it as shavings in a salad (such as argula with ginger shavings topped with mango, olive oil, balsamic vinegar - or more simply slices of tomatoes, ginger shavings, high quality olive oil and a few drops of lemon), or a fish marinade with ginger, lemon, olive oil and salt&pepper (this is what I am doing today for lunch with fresh tuna), in soup such as carrot soup or any broth. There are so many ways and it is healthy too!

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6 months ago Helens

I'm afraid I have to vehemently disagree with your recommendation to keep ginger in the fridge. I find that ginger that has been stored in the refrigerator tends to go mouldy much faster than ginger that I keep in the pantry. And there is little more depressing than mouldy ginger. Also, even when it doesn't mould, I find that fridge-ginger goes kind of soft in texture, but somehow seems drier and less juicy than ginger that has been kept on the shelf.

Admittedly, I tend to go through ginger pretty fast, so it's not usually hanging about that long, but I've used odds and ends of ginger that have been hiding in my cupboard for 2-3 months and found them to be perfectly serviceable for cooking, if not the freshest offering ever. If I left a piece of ginger in the fridge for that long, it would be a little ball of blue and green by the time I pulled it out. Eugh.

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6 months ago Gay Stevens

I would agree that mold is awful and if my ginger got moldy it would be in the trash immediately. But that has never happened and I doubt that it ever will when it is submerged in wine. I've been doing it for many years on the advice of a gourmet cook.

Kse

6 months ago Kenza Saadi

Actually of you keep it in a zip lock in the drawer of the fridge it can stay for about two weeks. Another way is to cut it in thin slices, place them in aluminum foil (separating them) then in a zip lock and in the freezer. Just a few suggestions.

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6 months ago Helens

Oh yeah - storing in wine is different and probably worth a try. Do you find that it affects the flavour much? I guess all the alcohol taste cooks off, but what about if you use it raw? I don't drink, but it's not a religious or medical thing, so I'll cook with alcohol.

Thanks for the zip lock tip, Kenza. I'll pass it on to my mother in law. She keeps ginger in the fridge and is always coming over to mine for emergency ginger when hers goes mouldy. Hopefully this will help.

Stringio

6 months ago Gay Stevens

When I buy a fresh hand of ginger, I scrape off the drier bits, break it up into pieces, then pulse a few times in the food processor. All of it goes into a jar with dry sherry or white wine, and into the refrigerator. So I always have chopped ginger ready to use in salads, cooking and smoothies. It will last almost indefinitely this way, and there is no waste.

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6 months ago Olyteh

If you have scratchy throat or a cold, have ginger tea. Boil then simmer fresh sliced ginger in water for about an hour - depend on how strong you prefer, just vary the amount of water and ginger; I would start strong and then dilute with water if too strong. Then, add fresh lemon juice and honey (to taste).

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6 months ago savorthis

I always have a nub of whole ginger in the freezer for grating as well as juice. I get a huge pile of it at the Asian grocery and put it through the juicer and freeze it in ice cube trays. I love it in sauces, soups and make a cocktail with steeped Szechuan peppercorns and a homemade ginger ale: http://food52.com/recipes.... Funny because as a kid I hated ginger and my dad put it in everything.