Types of Ginger
From the Sanskrit word stringa-vera meaning “with a body like a horn” ginger actually more resembles like the branched antlers of reindeer. It may look somewhat intimidating to use but once familiarized with its distinct hot pungent flavor and aroma, cooks and chefs find so many applications for it from beverages to desserts, main courses to candy, soups to herbal medicine.
Often mistaken for a root as it grows underground, botanically speaking, ginger is a type of fleshy tuberous rhizome or underground stem of a perennial creeping plant whose edible varieties include white, yellow and Thai ginger each having different flavor levels of heat. Young ginger is also appreciated for its milder flavor. Cardamom is a related plant whose small seed pods rank among the most expensive spices used.
Some varieties are used as ornamental plants due to their bright green lance-shaped leaves and white or yellow flowers sometimes with violet speckling. It can grow up to three feet tall and are easy to propagate from cuttings given ideal tropical climate. In fact, edible ginger varieties left on a cupboard can start to grow leaves if not used right away.
It’s has found its way in most other countries and have been given various names: gingembre in French, ingwer in German and zenzero in Italian. In india where it’s one of the most important agricultural products, it has several names according to its variety, maturity and form. The green variety is called adruk and the dried variety sonth.
It is available fresh and whole from various markets and Asian food stores. A whole piece is often called a hand in culinary terms. Rather than attempting to peel it which can be a challenge due to its knobby irregular shape, simply wash it well to remove and grit and use it with the skin, especially if you’re able to get organic ginger. Otherwise, scraping off the skin with a spoon is the best way to peel it.
Its versatility is also exhibited in the many forms it is available. Whole fresh ginger has the freshest flavor with the roots harvested in its immature green state. Dried roots are available whole or sliced with the skin on or peeled.
Ground powdered ginger is light colored and used for both sweet and savory cooking. Various forms of sweetened and naturally processed ginger are available with several uses. It can be preserved, crystallized and pickled and the essences used to flavor food and beverages like tea, carbonated water and even beer.