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Synonym: ginger root

botanical name: Zingiber officinale



Ginger is mentioned in old Indian and in the oldest Chinese manuscripts. It probably stems from India, where it was cultivated as early as 3000 years ago. From there it reached the Mediterranean region. The use of ginger has been known in Central Europe since the 11th century, and in the 13th century it was brought to East Africa, from where it spread further westward.


About 200 years ago, ginger was almost forgotten in Central Europe, and it has only recently become popular again here. For several decades now, large amounts of fresh ginger are imported to Germany each year.


Ginger is grown today in almost all tropical regions. Among the main cultivating areas are India, Malaysia, Southern China and Nigeria, but in other East Asian countries, Central America, Brazil and Australia as well, a great deal of ginger is harvested.



Both fresh ginger and the dried tuber are available all year round. The latter is usually sold as powder, rarely also in slices. Ginger is also sold candied or in syrup.


In Asian specialty shops you can also find grated ginger in vinegar and salt, sliced ginger in sweet vinegar, and even pickled young, pink shoots of the ginger plant.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Ginger is a perennial reed-like plant that belongs botanically to the family Zingiberaceae and grows to a height of about 1.5 m. The plant rarely blooms; it reproduces by forming thick fleshy rhizomes, often called roots. This underground part of the plant is used as a seasoning.


The rootstalk is elongated and somewhat flattened and can be up to 50 cm long. It grows branched like a tuber and spreads out horizontally, i.e. parallel to the earth. Individual rhizome pieces can be compared to an antler or to the fingers of a large hand.


The rhizome is light-brown to red-brown on the outside, yellowish on the inside. The taste is sweetly aromatic, slightly bitter and more or less stingingly sharp. The pungency of the tubers is marked, depending on the variety and the time of harvesting: peppery sharp or pleasantly mild. Some varieties have a refreshingly lemon-like undertone.


If the rhizomes are harvested at 5-6 months, they are mild and tender. After 10 months the ginger roots become thicker, more coarsely fibrous, tougher and frequently more pungent.



Ginger contains 1-4.3% essential oil; to date 160 different components have been verified.

The composition of the oil depends on the area where the plant is cultivated. Among the chief components are almost always sesquiterpenes. In addition, ginger contains various sharp-tasting resins and starches.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

Fresh ginger should be firm, fleshy and heavy. Dry, withered surfaces are an indication of produce that has been stored for too long. The fresh rhizome keeps best in the refrigerator, wrapped in a paper towel and then in a plastic bag. It will stay fresh this way for 2-3 weeks. Peeled roots can also be kept in this manner for several days. You can also put peeled ginger in rice wine, dry sherry or vinegar; kept in a closed jar in the refrigerator, it can still be used for some time.


Unpeeled fresh ginger can be frozen; when thawed it peels and cuts well. Dried ginger should be kept as cool, dry and protected from light as possible, in an airtight container.


Presumed effect on health

The pungent, aromatic taste of ginger stimulates the appetite, and when eaten it causes increased production of saliva and gastric juices and stimulates the digestive organs. It is presumed that with the consumption of ginger the body produces more digestive enzymes.


In Asia and Africa ginger is considered a effective remedy of great versatility. It is supposed to alleviate colds, stomach aches and headaches, and even migraines.


A healing effect on flatulence and colic is attributed to ginger and it is pleasantly warming. In Asian folk medicine ginger is used topically as well to treat injuries and rheumatism. The aromatic tuber is also said to be an aphrodisiac.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Ginger root can be used fresh or dried in many ways in the kitchen. Fresh ginger has been known in Europe for only a few decades; earlier only the ground dried tuber was used.


Fresh ginger root is first washed and peeled, and any dried parts are removed. Then, like garlic, it is cut into small pieces, pressed, grated or finely chopped.


If the root is very fibrous, you can also put small pieces through a garlic press; then the strawy part remains in the press. Or you can cook some slices with the food and remove them before serving.

Ginger tastes good with all meat dishes, especially with beef, pork, goose and duck. Marinades for barbecued meat and sauces are enhanced with this seasoning. Particularly in India and China, fish and seafood is seasoned with ginger. A popular combination for many dishes is ginger with soy sauce and garlic. In India, a seasoning paste is made of ginger, garlic, and onions, sometimes with chili and turmeric added.


Delicious chutneys can be made with ginger. They are eaten with cold and warm meat dishes, with fish, cooked eggs or flatbread. In Europe sweets, cakes and bread made with ginger are well-known. Ginger is used at Christmas to make gingerbread, spiced biscuits, and nut biscuits.

The tasty tuber is also popular candied, in syrup or dipped in chocolate. Try enhancing fruit, compote, desserts, jams, or whipped cream for apple pie with this seasoning.


Ginger oil is used in the beverage and confectionery industries and to make spice extracts.

Above all in England a top-fermented ginger beer is brewed. Here we know ginger ale as a soft drink with ginger concentrate. Some liqueurs are also made with ginger.


Seasoning tip

Add fresh ginger to foods about 20 minutes before the end of cooking. With sauces and desserts the spice should always be added at the end.


The taste of ginger goes well with sweet dishes containing citrus fruits, scallions and coconut. It harmonizes with cloves and paprika, chili, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom. It can also be combined with garlic, basil, lime juice or cumin.



For sensitive persons, the consumption of large amounts of ginger (ca. 5 g) can cause stomach irritation. Normal amounts used in seasoning are generally well-tolerated.





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