Adding fresh ginger to your diet comes with a number of health benefits, but you need to make sure you are buying the freshest ginger you can find.
Here are some tips to help make choosing-and buying-fresh ginger as easy as possible.
Whether you are planning to surprise your family with a delicious new stir-fry recipe next week or simply looking for a new twist of flavor for your morning cup of tea, ginger is a easy way to bring a boost of flavor and health benefits to your every day diet.
Some people are intimidated by the thought of purchasing what they view as a mysterious and exotic ingredient, but there is really no reason to be anxious about it. Purchasing a fresh ginger root is similar to purchasing any other type of fresh produce.
Follow these simple tips below and you will soon be enjoying the freshest, most flavorful ginger possible, as well as reaping numerous health benefits from it.
A Brief History Of Ginger
Ginger, known scientifically as Zingiber officinale is a tropical flowering plant native to southeast Asia, whose rhizome, or root, is commonly used as a spice in culinary applications and as a folk medicine.
It is said to be especially helpful in relieving stomach ailments. It belongs to same plant family as cardamom and tumeric, which are also used extensively in cooking and for medicinal purposes.
Although it is now grown in numerous areas of the world, ginger is believed to be the earliest spice to be cultivated and exported from the southwest India region.
It is a popular spice that is used world-wide and demand for it has remained consistent throughout history.
It can be found in a wide variety of products, including baked goods, candies, sodas, alcoholic liquors, wines, teas and pickles as well as a variety of homeopathic remedies.
It is also a staple ingredient in Indian, Phillipino, Vietnamese, Korean, Malaysian, Caribbean, Japanese, Chinese, Jamaican and Burmese cuisine.
Where To Buy Fresh Ginger
Fresh ginger can be found just about anywhere that fresh produce is sold. Large grocery chains, organic and natural food stores, regional grocery store chains, health food stores and many specialty food stores have fresh ginger available for purchase.
You may even be able to find it at your local farmers market and or as a part of a grocery delivery service. If you prefer to do your shopping online, there are a number of online retailers also offering fresh ginger in their inventory.
When To Buy Ginger
Since ginger is a tropical plant that is grown year-round, it should be easy to find it whenever you need to make a purchase. Historically, the largest supplier of United States imported ginger is China, with Thailand, Brazil, Peru and Hawaii also supplying more and more of the product yearly.
How To Choose Ginger
When choosing ginger to buy, you will want to use your senses and let them guide you.
- Touch: You will want a root that is firm to the touch with smooth skin. It should be without any soft spots, which indicates rot, or wrinkles, which are a sign of dehydration.
- Hearing: Choose a ginger root that you believe is too big and snap off a smaller piece. It should break apart with a healthy, audible “snap”. If it doesn’t, choose another root.
- Sight: The ginger root should look unblemished with shiny, taut skin. The skin should be thin and easily scraped with a fingernail. Avoid any roots that have started to mold.
- Smell: If your ginger has a zesty, spicy or pungent aroma, it is fresh.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Ginger
Once you have found the freshest ginger you can, there are a few simple tips on how to get the most out of it and minimize your waste.
The first rule of using ginger is to not peel it until you need it.
The second rule is to peel it with a gentle touch. Use a spoon to scrape away the skin instead of a knife or vegetable peeler.
It won’t bruise the flesh, helping it to last longer. If you will be using your ginger quickly, it is acceptable to leave it out on the counter unwrapped.
If you will be slower to use it, you will want to keep it in a resealable plastic bag with the excess air squeezed out.
It will last in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to three weeks this way.
If you purchased a large ginger root, or are very slow to use what you have on hand, you are best advised to wrap it in plastic then keep it stored in a resealable plastic bag, once again squeezing the extra air out, and freezing it.
The ginger root will last up to three month this way.
Ground Ginger As An Alternative To Fresh
There may be times when you are unable to find fresh ginger root. Depending on how you plan to use the fresh ginger root, ground ginger may be an acceptable substitute.
When using ground ginger as a substitute, keep in mind that it will have a milder, less astringent taste than the fresh ginger root would. This is because ground ginger is lacking in the essential oils found in fresh ginger that give it such a pungent flavor.
You will want to use 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger for every 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger called for in the original recipe.
If you currently have ground ginger in your cupboard, but you don’t use it often, or at all, do yourself a favor and visit the spice aisle of your favorite grocery store and purchase a new bottle.
Ground ginger will quickly lose its potency as it sits, especially if it is exposed to light.
As you can see, purchasing fresh ginger roots is not a difficult or time consuming chore.
The first few times, you may be slower to make your purchase, but as you become more comfortable in the process, you will be able to spot high quality fresh ginger root in a fraction of the time it once took you.
When buying fresh ginger, look for smooth, firm, and unblemished roots. The skin should be thin and shiny, and the ginger should have a strong, spicy aroma. Avoid ginger with soft spots, wrinkles, or moldy areas.