I always find it fascinating how certain words have certain connotations – e.g. the word ginger. Go on, say it aloud – “Ginger!” What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Hair colour of a much maligned set of people (with a rather amazing DNA sequence I might add)? Freckles sunburn and Children of the Corn type movies? Or does that word conjure up the spice and *horror for me* glacé ginger pieces and similar undeserving of a sweet title?

Ginger in itself is a rather miraculous spice. Its health giving benefits are myriad. It contains nearly a dozen antiviral compounds. Ginger is pain relieving, antiseptic and antioxidant. It is valuable for preventing and treating colds, sore throats and inflammation of mucus membranes.

Ginger reduces pain and fever and has a mild sedative effect that will encourage rest. It’s also very tasty, with no lingering odours like the garlic I blogged about 2 weeks ago. Drink a tea, or soak fresh ginger in hot water, take as a tincture and include it in your food. Ginger is also delicious in a fruit smoothie or in a healthy water drink combo (a mix of soft chilled fruits put in a blender).

In history, Ginger was used extensively by the ancient Romans and was later traded in Europe by the Arabs who took the rhizomes on their travels and then planted them in other tropical places such as Zanzibar and Africa. Europeans loved it to flavour drinks but since a pound of ginger cost as much as an entire sheep, it was used sparingly. Today, ginger is a less expensive and grown in many subtropical areas. Its lovely flowers are so appealing that it is often used in landscaping.

The ginger plant itself, Zingiber officinale, is a perennial which can grow to about 3 of 4 feet and produces clusters of pink and white flowers. Although the leaves are sometimes eaten, it is the rhizome or underground stem that is of medicinal and culinary interest. This stem is a chunky root-like thing with a thin brown skin and hard light flesh inside. It is often erroneously called ginger root since the rhizome resembles a root but this is actually not the root of the plant at all but an underground ‘stem’.

I can attest to both ginger’s calming and stomach settling effects, but as it’s never been a favourite, I’m not so keen on the chocolate robed ginger or the ginger bon bons that are all the rage now, more’s the pity. One would suppose that I could always lick the chocolate off the ginger, but that’s too much PT – easier to just buy plain chocolate (as if chocolate could ever be plain!) and scoff that.

The nice thing about ginger is that you can steep it in warm water from your water boiler or grate it fresh into your chilled water from your office and sip on it throughout the day – it’ll help to keep you shored up and resistant to all the workplace chills and winter colds. Win-win.