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This is one of the most versatile spices. It can be pickled (commonly used in Asian foods), crystalised (used in confectionery and stir fry), minced and frozen, dried and ground, steeped into wine or brewed into an ale. You could say it's even put a whole town on the map!
The Australian town of Buderim is famous for its ginger crop and the many Ginger based products produced there. A few pieces of live ginger were planted there just before World War 1 and they flourished in the hot humid climate. When the Second World War stopped all ginger supplies from China, five Buderim farmers got together in an old blacksmith's shop and formed the Buderim Ginger Growers Cooperative with 25 pounds, two wooden vats and 14 tons of green ginger. Today the world famous Buderim Ginger Factory is a multi million business with it's own train running guided tours. If you have ever eaten ginger, as glace ginger, ginger ale, ginger in an Asian dish or in cakes and biscuits, chances are it came from Buderim.
From humble beginings in a blacksmiths shop - The Buderim Ginger Growers Co-op in it's early days.
Ginger was broadly used by the Roman Empire. After the fall of the Roman Empire it was forgotten until it was rediscovered and reintroduced to Europe by Marco Polo in his trip to the East.
Ginger grows best in tropical and sub tropical areas, which have good rainfall with hot and humid conditions during the summer season. It originated in Southeast Asia and has been introduced to many parts of the globe, where it proliferates in suitable environments.
Belief in the medicinal properties of ginger existed in both ancient Indian and oriental cultures where ginger was used alone or as a component in herbal remedies.
This practice continues today in many areas of the world, including Africa, Brazil, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Sudan and Thailand. Ginger was introduced to Europe and other areas by Dutch, Portuguese, Arab and Spanish explorers or traders from around the 13th to 16th centuries.
The aromatic root, which ia actually a rhizome, not a root) is the part that is used for both medicinal and culinary applications. Although this is commonly referred to as ginger-root, it is a misnomer because the ginger rhizome is actually a form of plump underground stem, not a true root. The rhizome may be used fresh, cooked in food or steeped as a tea. Its volatile oils (e.g., gingerol and shogaol) and compounds may be distilled; or it may be dried, ground and used in capsules or other powdered forms.
It soothes digestion, contains at least 12 anti-ageing constituents that inactivate free radicals (cancer and heart disease). Ginger also supports blood platelet health by making them less sticky and cardio vascular function. It reduces inflammation, enhances natural resistance for colds and flu, has 22 known constituents that inhibit inflammatory 5-lipoxygenase. It supports prostrate health by blocking the harmful effects of prostaglandin (a substance that can lead to inflammation of the blood vessels) and may increase absorption and neutralisation and utilisation of other nutrients and herbs by 2 to 2.5 times.
Ginger is used to reduce nausea, especially in pregnant women, can reduce cramps caused by stomach gas, reduce inflammation especially for rheumatoid arthritis and is also effective in treating diarrhoea
As a food, it is high in vitamin E, B6, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Selenium and a very good source of Manganese.
Zucchini or Courgette
Medicinal Properties of Ginger
As an Antioxidant Ginger contains antioxidant properties that even outperform commonly used chemical antioxidants. Ginger is rated in a number of studies to possess a free radical-inhibiting index even greater than that of commercial antioxidant preservatives BHA and BHT.(1)
Ginger has been found to inhibit lipid peroxidation in rat liver microcosms (2) and successfully scavenge superoxide anions (3). In an American study 21 compounds (including gingerol related compounds) were isolated from ginger. It was found that "most of the isolated compounds exhibited stronger antioxidative effect than alpha-tocopherol"(vitamin E) (4).
The antioxidant powers of ginger have been proven in applications where ginger extract was added to meat products. "The antioxodative effectiveness of ginger extract was further tested with fresh, frozen and precooked pork patties. The shelf life of all products determined by TBA value was improved by the inclusion of ginger extract.(5)
See also "Ginger" in the Herbs section
A lot of medical research has been performed on ginger.
(1) Common Spice or Wonder Drug? Ginger.Schulick.P. Herbal Free Press, Brattleboro, Vermont, USA. (1993)
(2) Studies on spice principles as antioxidants in the inhibition of
lipid peroxidation of rat liver microsomes. Reddy AC, Lokesh BR. Department of Food Chemistry, Central
Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, India.
(3) Scavenging of superoxide anions by spice principles.Krishnakantha TP, Lokesh BR
Department of Nutrition & Food Safety, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore.
(4) Structure of antioxidative compounds in ginger.Kikuzaki,-H.; Kawasaki,-Y.; Nakatani,-N. ACS-symp-ser. Washington, D.C. : AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY, 1974-. 1994. (547) p. 237-243.
(5) Antioxidant property in ginger rhizome and its application to meat products.Lee-YB; Kim-YS; Ashmore-CR 1986 JOURNAL-OF-FOOD-SCIENCE; 51 (1) 20-23, 22 ref.
(6) Buderim Ginger - History, information and guided tours Postal Address : PO Box 231, Yandina QLD 4561 Tel: 1800 067 686 Buderim Ginger website: www.buderimginger.com.