Ginger is an important spice in Asian and western cooking, and has an increasing reputation as a medicinal plant.
Botanical illustration of a ginger root.
An ancient spice
Dried, powdered ginger was exported from India to Europe in Roman times, two thousand years ago. Fresh ginger is a recent arrival in European shops, in part because of the popularity of Asian cookery.
Ginger is not just an important spice. It is used to treat many illnesses in Asia and in the West, particularly nausea and travel-sickness.
Ginger beer plant
Until recently, many British homes housed a "ginger beer plant". This was a mass of fungi and bacteria that turned a sugary solution into a drink tasting like ginger beer. Today ginger beer is usually made in factories.
Root or stem?
Ginger comes from the fleshy rhizomes. Although growing underground, these are not roots, but a special kind of swollen stem.