Ginger - ginger beer plant
It would be regularly 'fed' with sugar and every so often the liquid would be tapped off, diluted and bottled. The liquid would ferment in the bottle, producing the fizz. After about a week or so it was ready to drink. The plant was treated like a chain letter. As it grew it was halved and passed to family and friends.
Mystery 'plant' revealedNo one has ever worked out where the first ginger beer plants came from, but the mystery of its identity was solved by a pioneering scientist in the late nineteenth century. Harry Marshall Ward studied how plants and microorganisms live together in symbiotic relationships. He became curious when a friend at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, gave him a ginger beer plant. As the years passed he built up a whole collection of ginger beer plant specimens and painstakingly identified, separated and attempted to grow the different organisms within the mixtures.
His analyses revealed that it was a type of organism new to science. He described it as a 'composite body', consisting of many microorganisms living together. Not all of these microbes helped in making the beer, but two organisms were present in every sample, and seemed vital to the production of ginger beer. One was a fungus he named Saccharomyces pyriformis. The other was a bacterium, which he named Bacterium vermiforme, and is now called Brevibacterium vermiforme. Together, they produce the essential ingredients of traditional ginger beer: carbon dioxide and alcohol.
The popularity of the ginger beer plant died out. The commercial, canned ginger beer of today is very different. It doesn't contain alcohol and isn't made by fermentation.