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Ginger - route to good health.

Byline: Elizabeth Shaheen

During last autumn, I selected a succulent "hand" of ginger from the greengrocers. I made sure that it had at least two stout, yellow growing-buds and was free of bruising and white fungal growth and any signs of shrivelling.

I potted it up in a mixture of two-parts potting compost and one-part vermiculite ver·mic·u·lite  
Any of a group of micaceous hydrated silicate minerals related to the chlorites and used in heat-expanded form as insulation and as a planting medium.
, with the buds poking just above the mixture and kept it under plastic to keep warm.

When I say a "hand" of ginger I am referring to the botanical description of the rhizome rhizome (rī`zōm) or rootstock, fleshy, creeping underground stem by means of which certain plants propagate themselves. Buds that form at the joints produce new shoots.  of Zingiber officinale, for it truly does represent a swollen hand with chubby deformed fingers.

This is the common ginger found in markets and grocery shops.

Once the tuber tuber, enlarged tip of a rhizome (underground stem) that stores food. Although much modified in structure, the tuber contains all the usual stem parts—bark, wood, pith, nodes, and internodes.  had made good root and stem growth, I planted it out under a Plumeria obtusa, which provides handsome shade to a tropical border in the lawn.

Ginger requires partial shade and long, hot, humid summers. It also enjoys a humus-rich, free-draining soil.

The latter, Bahrain's sandy soil happily provides. All you need to do is double dig a generous planting hole and then incorporate into the soil some manure and compost (preferably homemade).

Ginger is a creeping tropical perennial that produces single, reed-like stems which are dressed from head to toe in to stand or carry the feet in such a way that the toes of either foot incline toward the other.

See also: Toe
 pea-green, lance-shaped leaves. These stems can reach between three to six feet in height. The white flowers are streaked purple and are borne in spikes.

This marvellous, aromatic herb hails from the moist tropical jungles of Southeast Asia. It boasts a long, rich history going back in time some 5,000 years when both the ancient Chinese and Indians valued it as a tonic root for all ailments including protection against marauding ma·raud  
v. ma·raud·ed, ma·raud·ing, ma·rauds

To rove and raid in search of plunder.
To raid or pillage for spoils.

Dried ginger had reached the Middle East and southern Europe before Roman times. In fact, it was one of the first spices to be introduced into Europe from Asia and was commonly (although wrongly) held to be an Arabian produce.

Although ginger had long been a trading commodity, its cultivation came into its own during the 13th and 14th centuries, when the Arabs journeyed to Zanzibar and Africa and planted the rhizomes.

Ginger root was so highly valued during the 14th century that a pound of ginger secured the value of an entire sheep.

It was the Spaniards who were responsible for introducing the live-rhizomes to the West Indies, where the plant felt very much at home.

The year 1547 witnessed the first exports of ginger being shipped from Jamaica to Spain.

Today, ginger can be found growing throughout the tropics tropics, also called tropical zone or torrid zone, all the land and water of the earth situated between the Tropic of Cancer at lat. 23 1-2°N and the Tropic of Capricorn at lat. 23 1-2°S.  and now in our Bahrain garden.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans exploited ginger as a flavouring and as a digestive aid. It was also a significant commodity in Europe during the Middle Ages and used for the same purposes. But in addition, to combat the Black Death, for it promotes sweating.

It is said, although I am not able to verify it, that Queen Elizabeth 1 of England put together the recipe for the gingerbread man which plays an important role at Christmas.

Ginger root is - to my mind at least - best taken fresh as a tea to alleviate a range of ailments including heartburn heartburn, burning sensation beneath the breastbone, also called pyrosis. Heartburn does not indicate heart malfunction but results from nervous tension or overindulgence in food or drink. , bloating bloating Vox populi A lay term for post-prandial abdominal fullness or swelling , nausea and flatulence flatulence /flat·u·lence/ (flat´u-lens) excessive formation of gases in the stomach or intestine.

flat·u·lence or flat·u·len·cy
The presence of excessive gas in the digestive tract.

A ginger tea is also taken to prevent motion sickness. It is often taken for treating colds, coughs and flu. Traditionalists also use it to treat arthritis, headache, fever and even toothache Toothache Definition

A toothache is any pain or soreness within or around a tooth, indicating inflammation and possible infection.

A toothache may feel like a sharp pain or a dull ache.

Ginger's anti-nausea properties have triggered the study for its use in treating post-operative nausea and for post-chemotherapy nausea.

You can purchase dried ginger rhizomes which are far superior to powdered ginger as you cannot be sure of the latter's quality.

The rhizome is first washed and then dried with the skin remaining on. It is known as black or green ginger and will, in all probability, have a dark, scaly scal·y
1. Covered or partially covered with scales.

2. Shedding scales or flakes; flaking.


skin condition characterized by scales; scalelike.

Another form of dried ginger requires the need to first parboil par·boil  
tr.v. par·boiled, par·boil·ing, par·boils
1. To cook partially by boiling for a brief period: parboiled and then sautéed the new potatoes.

 the rhizome and then spike it with a coating of lime preservative, this is then sliced prior to it being bleached white.

Before using dried root ginger you must first bruise it by hitting it with a rolling-pin or a heavy object. This action opens the fibres thus releasing it marvellous spicy pungency.

Ginger preserves take many forms, After scraping, the rhizome can be preserved in sherry, spirit or syrup. Some people enjoy it pickled in vinegar. Ginger preserved in sugar is of Chinese origin and is enjoyed as a sweetmeat and as flavouring in creams and cakes.

Buttermilk buttermilk

residual fluid after removal of fat from milk in butter manufacture; a protein-rich supplement fed to pigs.
 is wonderful when laced with fresh ginger.

Ginger root is also used in creating beverages such as ginger beer, ginger ale, ginger wine and cordials.

When using ginger, the hands should be fleshy and not at all shrivelled shriv·el  
intr. & tr.v. shriv·eled or shriv·elled, shriv·el·ing or shriv·el·ling, shriv·els
1. To become or make shrunken and wrinkled, often by drying:
. The root should contain the minimum of fibre.

It is a superb ingredient for an entire range of culinary creations, including meat and fish dishes.

Ginger can be harvested after five months, when it is abundant with leaf. However, for a greater harvest, it is recommended that you wait for around eight to nine months.

Do consult you doctor before using ginger for medicinal purposes.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Nov 9, 2008
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