Discoveries at the Jungle: Ginger

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Ginger is a widely used food with a rich culinary history. Its variety of uses has made it a staple food in many cultures, and it makes a great addition to sweet desserts, savory foods, salad dressings, teas, and much more. It’s also known for its multitude of health benefits, especially when it comes to digestive health. Ginger has long been used to treat upset stomachs, help with nausea, and aid in digestion. Many others have found that ginger helps with weight loss by stimulating the metabolism, relieves some types of pain and inflammation, and can even regulate blood sugar.

 

Ginger is a tropical plant that thrives in warm, temperate climates and is native to parts of Asia and the Caribbean. India is currently the largest exporter of ginger, but China and Indonesia also grow large quantities of ginger. Ginger can be grown in the United States, but it may be difficult to cultivate it if you live in the north or east. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends growing ginger as a perennial in hardiness zones  9-12, which encompasses the West Coast and the South. However, you can still grow ginger at home even if you live in a colder climate. You’ll have to plant it each summer as an annual, but it’s a resilient plant and should thrive during the warmer months!

 

Ginger has been cultivated for a very long time and documented as far back as 5,000 years ago. It is believed that ginger was first grown and harvested in China and India. From there, it was exported from India to the Roman Empire and quickly became a valuable commodity. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, ginger was used medicinally across Europe, but very rare and difficult to obtain. At one point, during the Middle Ages, a pound of ginger held the same value as a sheep!

 

Ginger remained rare and expensive for centuries. As part of the spice trade, ginger was controlled exclusively by the Middle East.  The Middle Eastern merchants continued to charge exorbitant prices, as some traders invented stories, to impress Western buyers. They told tales of gardens guarded by powerful, ferocious beasts. The traders insisted prices were so high, due to the difficulty of acquiring their spices. Many of them saw through this marketing scheme, causing herbs, spices, and ginger from the East, to take on mythic and legendary qualities.

 

Today the myth persists, as people have turned to ginger on its own as a health supplement or remedy. The idea of using natural spices and foods as medicine has become a cultural paradigm; it continues to grow and evolve. Many of us regard these “superfoods” with reverence, awe, and mystery for good reason. We know that ginger is a remedy for digestive ailments, increases metabolism, and helps relieve inflammation. Some of the finer details on how these work are still unknown; ginger remains slightly mythic, mysterious, and magical.

 

Nowadays, ginger is much more accessible and can be found right here at Jungle Jim’s! You can buy minced ginger, grated ginger, pureéd ginger, ginger juice, and, of course, whole, raw ginger root. You can find all of these varieties at Jungle Jim’s, plus much more. We’ve chosen our favorite ginger products and decided to spotlight them here for Discoveries at the Jungle!

Check out our featured ginger posts this month!

Discoveries at the Jungle: Ginger

Discoveries at the Jungle: Cooking with Ginger, The Real Deal

Discoveries at the Jungle: Cooking with Ginger, Flavored Marinades and Sauces

Discoveries at the Jungle: Ginger Snacks

Discoveries at the Jungle: Ginger Beverages

 

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