Ginger - food

Ginger is a popular spice worldwide. In Asia, it is mainly used in the form of fresh rhizomes, peeled then grated or chopped. Its aroma has been described as ''rich and warm, with a refreshing, woody note and sweet, citrus undertones''. It is a versatile spice that works well in savoury and sweet dishes in many culinary traditions.

Flavouring and food

A photograph of an Al Halal supermarket in Bradford selling ginger.
Image: An Al Halal supermarket in Bradford has a wide range of fresh goods on sale.

Often paired with garlic, fresh ginger is a key ingredient in many South Asian savoury dishes. In the north of India, garlic, ginger and onion are often pounded together to make a paste which is then fried to form the basis of vegetable and meat dishes. In southern India, chillies and turmeric replace the onion.

Not all communities appreciate ginger: many Jains consider ginger to be a prohibited food, alongside other tubers.

Preserved ginger - pieces of ginger rhizome in a sugar syrup - is a popular ingredient in sweet dishes in South Asia. Fresh ginger is often pickled in vinegar in southeast Asia. In Japan pickled ginger is known as as 'gari' and 'beni-shoga' and eaten with sushi.

Until recently, most ginger exports were in the form of dried, powdered ginger. This is the form in which ginger was used in ancient Rome and medieval Europe. In Europe ginger was used on all kinds of food in the medieval period, but since the 18th century, mainly in baked goods such as gingerbread. Ginger beer is a non-alcoholic soft drink, popular in the West Indies and in Britain. It can be made with fresh or powdered ginger. Home-made ginger beer is a refreshing drink in summer.

With the increasing popularity of Asian cooking, fresh ginger is now widely available. If frozen after peeling and grating, fresh ginger can conveniently stored for home use.