Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ginger: Beyond the Wasabi

As I think more about what I put into my body from a 'fuel' perspective I also have started paying more attention to the supposed benefits of some of my favorite herbs and spices.  I have always adored various Asian flavors in cooking but have more recently come to love ginger, let's just say I've been a slow adopter.  For me, ginger was just that pink stuff (not ham as I so sadly found out many years ago) that sat alongside the wasabi on my sushi order.  I have avoided it, been disgusted when large pieces of it appeared in stir fries or soups and have just ignored it for many years.   Of late though I've been adding it to marinades, sauces and stir fries beacuse shockingly (yea I know, I'm late to the party), it tastes good!

Ginger is kind of amazing, it's actually a root (if you leave it on your counter long enough it'll spout greenery and grow!), it can be yellow, white or red in color depending on the variety and has a kin that can be thicker or thinner depending on how mature the plant was when it was harvested. Ginger is sought out for it's medicinal properties from relief of motion and seasickness, anti-inflammatory properties, immunity boosting properties and there are even studies to understand its effects on fighting various cancers.  Pretty powerful stuff that you can find in your local grocery store.

The use of ginger dates back over 5,000 years where the ancient Chinese and Indians recognized it's powerful medicinal uses and viewed it as a healing gift from God.  While many think of ginger as a very eastern spice, it was actually widely-used in ancient Rome (it was exported via the spice route from India), sadly with the fall of the Roman Empire, ginger fell out of circulation.  As the Arab control of the spice trade increased, ginger became a highly prized but very expensive spice used mainly in its preserved form through the Middle Ages. At this time it was very pricey with a value equal to a whole heard of live sheep!

Ginger did not regain it's full popularity in western countries until about the 11th Century when it was again used for making sweets, cooking meats and in pastes.  In the 16th Century, Henvry VIII recommended ginger as a remedy for the plague.  It is said that later his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, invented the gingerbread man, surely the rise of Gingy helped spread ginger!

From 1585, Jamaican ginger was the first oriental spice to be grown in the New World and imported back to Europe (wikipedia).  Currently India leads the world's production of Ginger with over 30% while China, Indonesia, Nepal and Thailand rounding out the top remaining producers.   Ginger is widely used and found across the globe today.

Ok, now for the goodies...what is sure to become one of my favorite paleo stir fry recipes:

Ginger-Pork Stir Fry
2 Thick-cut Pork Chops, butterflied and cut into strips
2 Crowns of Broccoli, cut into small florets
2 Large Red Bell Peppers, or 3 Small, cut into strips
1 Tsp Minced Garlic
2 Tbsp Minced Ginger
2 Tbsp Tamari Soy
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
5 Green Onions, Chopped

1. Over high heat, add oil to a wok, once oil is sizzling add pork and garlic, saute until pork is browning on outside.
2. Add broccoli and ginger, saute two minutes and add peppers, green onion and tamari. 

3. Heat another two to three minutes, don't over cook, you want the veggies to have crunch


Katherine Aucoin said...

Your stir fry looks great, beautiful colors.

Dee said...

Looks delicious! Love the history.