Ginger is native to China and India, the word deriving from Sanskrit meaning 'with a body like a deer's antler'. Ginger's shape reminds me of another root that is commonly sold in our supermarkets that can be prepared like potatoes, but obnoxiously produces such awful flatulence as to have made it totally banned in our home: Jerusalem artichoke. I digress.
Ginger spice was so popular in Europe that it was often provided in containers like salt and pepper. In England, the-epicentre-com says that pub owners and innkeepers provided small containers of ground ginger for customers to sprinkle into their beer, the original ginger ale!
Interestingly, the most searched-for ginger topic on Google seems to be a pornographic star with the first name of Ginger! That is probably due to a combination of things, maybe red hair, often called ginger hair, or that she spices up men's lives.
Ginger Root Properly Called Ginger Rhizome:
Regardless of popularity, we will speak here of the rhizome, Zingiber officinale, the ginger spice commonly used to make gingerbread cookies, ginger tea and flavor Asian cuisine and sauces. A rhizome is an underground stem, not a true root. If you were to dig up the whole ginger plant, you'd see fine hairs that feed the rhizome - those are ginger's real 'roots'.
As an aside, these rhizome nodule clumps are called 'hands' and that is how they are shipped to your grocery store, in clumps which you purchase by weight. You can break off a nodule, skin it and slice it thinly or finely grate it for additions to sauces or soups. Asian cuisine often calls for its use fresh, while many western recipes call for dried, ground ginger.
Fully 50% of the world's ginger harvest is produced in India, but the best quality comes from Jamaica. Lower quality ginger is used in beer or ginger ale production or pressed and reduced to oils for flavorings or perfumes.
Medicinal Uses of Ginger:
Ginger has been used medicinally for several thousand years, the first recorded mention being 3,000 years B.C. in China. Confucius is reputed to have eaten ginger daily, noting its stomach calming and gas reducing effects in the intestines.
It is used today to aid in the reduction of menopausal side effects as well as an aphrodisiac, the latter perhaps only the calming influence mentioned above, allowing for peaceful and enthusiastic reciprocal engagement with a willing partner.
Ginger has also been shown to be an excellent preservative, eliminating salmonella in tests!
Additionally, ginger has been recommended to counteract nausea associated for some with air, car and sea sickness. If you are nauseous, you can take a cube of sugared ginger candy and nibble it. The taste is fairly strong, so nibbling is the best course. If you prefer, you can eat a few gingersnap cookies to settle your stomach. That works well, too!
While the most potent antioxidant spice is clove, ginger ranks third behind oregano leaves, followed by cinnamon, turmeric and paprika. These spices pack a wallop, netting us more concentrated antioxidant power than even blueberries or red wine. In addition, they do this with a zero calorie cost (!) which cannot be said of other foods or beverages.
Cooking with Ginger Spice:
Vegetarian dishes abound with ginger spice. It is both sweet and hot, depending on the quantity used, lending a pleasant bite to some otherwise bland foods such as tofu.
For our recipe of the day at vegetarian-fun.com, we provide Old Fashioned Ginger Snaps found on Suite101.com - titled: Grandma Edna's Ginger Cookies. We modified the recipe to reflect Grandma Edna's alterations per her quote: "In my oven, 12 minutes is about the right time. Otherwise they get too brown. This makes a very rich cookie. I like to add a little more flour (maybe 1/4 cup) and add a tiny bit of water, maybe 1 Tbsp."
So the resulting recipe is as follows!
Grandma Edna's Ginger Cookies (World's Best Ginger Snaps)
o 3/4 cup shortening
o 1-cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
o 1 egg
o 1/4 tsp salt
o 4 Tbsp molasses
o 2 1/4 cups flour
o 2 tsp baking soda
o 1/2 tsp ground cloves
o 1 tsp ground cinnamon
o 1 tsp ground ginger
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Cream together shortening and brown sugar until well mixed, light, and fluffy.
2. Beat together well the egg, salt, and molasses and then mix these into the above. (Grandma beat and mixed these by hand.)
3. Sift together flour, baking soda, ground cloves, cinnamon and ginger.
4. Add dry ingredients to first wet mixture and combine well.
5. Chill in the refrigerator a few hours or overnight.
6. After chilled, shape dough into balls about walnut sized and place balls on a greased cookie sheet, allowing room for expansion. Flatten balls with a fork.
7. Bake in 350-degree oven 12 to 15 min. Do not let get too brown.
Grandma liked these cookies thin and crisp. Experiment and adapt to suit taste, size and desired consistency. Grandma's were about 2 1/2" in diameter.
So there you have what we hope you will find a keeper ginger snap recipe. My dear spouse dearly loves a snappy, zingy and crispy ginger cookie. This fits his bill. However, if you have made one that is snappier and has a real ginger bite, please submit a recipe!
Sue Bozeman is co-owner and principal writer for http://www.vegetarian-fun.com which has been creating articles about healthy eating, gardening and vegetarian-oriented activities since 2004. There are articles of interest to everyone, regardless of lifestyle preference, centered around fruits, vegetables, spices, grains, nuts and seeds. We've recently begun a series on vegetarian pets, the first of which was the green iguana.