Lisa

Contributor

The chilly autumn season is well underway and, as usual, it brought with it sniffles, sneezes, and coughs. Cold medicine is in hot demand, and everyone is trading secrets on their own homeopathic methods for a cure.

A balanced diet rich in nutrients supplies the body with vitamins and minerals that strengthen our immune system and protect us from viruses and infections. But even the healthiest among us get weakened by winter—occupational and emotional stress or lack of sleep can all be culprits.

So what can we do to stay healthy through winter? First step: Buy some ginger (and/or tumeric, another wonder rhizome). Thanks to its nutrients, the so-called wonder rhizome is often used for prevention and treatment of colds and to strengthen the immune system. It’s more than just a spice: The root stimulates digestion, alleviates pain, and prevents sickness by strengthening the immune system.

Here’s what you need to know about ginger and how to get the most out of it in preparation for winter:

What exactly is ginger?

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a tropical spice plant that has a highly branched and aromatic rootstock. The word “ginger” most likely has its origin in Sanskrit and literally means “antler-like shape.” Though ginger is believed to originate in the Pacific Islands, it is now grown throughout the world in tropical and subtropical zones of Asia, in parts of Africa and South America, and on Caribbean islands, like Jamaica.
The root has been widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years, but is increasingly popular throughout the world for its health and culinary benefits.

Can you grow ginger by yourself?

Yes, you can grow ginger at home! Start by placing a 3 – 5 cm/1 – 2 in. ginger root in lukewarm water overnight to germinate. Place the ginger root flat in a pot filled with potting compost and cover it with soil. Slightly press down, moisten the soil, and cover with plastic wrap to maintain a high humidity. Promote air circulation by periodically opening or removing the plastic for a few minutes. The root needs a partially shady place (avoid direct sunlight) that is at least 20°C/68°F to sprout.

When a shoot forms, remove the plastic, then wait for the first sprout to pop up in the following weeks. Repot the plant and place it on the sunniest spot you can find in your home. Water it daily and spray the leaves from time to time to keep it moist. Be careful not to overwater, which can waterlog the root and cause it to decay.

In the winter, find a spot that is at least 10°C/50°F to avoid frost; no water is needed during these months. In autumn, it’s time to harvest! Your plant is fully ripe when the leaves turn yellow.

How healthy is ginger?

How to use ginger to fight against colds and more

Ginger is a true wonder weapon against colds. Nutrients like vitamin C, magnesium, and iron fight viruses and bacteria. Plus, on cold days, ginger tea will warm the body from the inside out with its spicy flavor.
Ginger helps to thin mucus and its nutrients work to inhibit the same enzyme as acetylsalicylic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin.

Other health benefits

Ginger does more than just cure colds: It alleviates spasms and has painkilling and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s also rich in essential oils and spicy compounds, called gingerols and Shogaols. These work against nausea and dizziness, as well as aid digestion and against heartburn. Additionally, ginger is said to help reduce cholesterol levels and have a positive effect on blood pressure and the heart.

Some also turn to ginger when it comes to fighting against migraines, strengthening the liver, or stimulating appetite and metabolism. But that’s not all! Ginger-compresses are often used to combat arthritis or as a painkiller for menstrual cramps.

Filled with vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron, the most valuable nutrition is found directly under ginger’s skin—so try to only thinly peel the root, if at all!

How to make fresh ginger tea

The simplest and arguably most effective course of action against cold and flu? Ginger tea. In order to get the most out of it, start by choosing organic ginger and don’t forget to leave the skin on. That’s where most of the disease-fighting nutrients live. If you prefer to peel it, try to only peel as much as necessary, using the edge of a teaspoon to remove a thin layer.

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How to peel ginger

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How to make ginger tea

1. Grate 1 tbsp. of ginger and transfer to a pot.
2. Add 470 ml/2 cups of water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 min.
3. Strain the tea and when it’s slightly cooled, add honey and fresh lemon juice to taste.

How to make ginger water

In contrast to ginger tea, for ginger water, the ginger is not cooked with water; instead, hot water is poured over fresh ginger.

1. Put 2 tbsp. of grated fresh ginger (with skin) in a cup and pour hot water over.
2. Let steep, covered, for 10 min. to extract the essential oils. Add honey and fresh lemon juice to taste.

How to store ginger

A small piece of fresh ginger is usually enough for most dishes. Look for a fresh piece so that it can be kept for longer. You can identify this by its weight (it should feel heavy) and texture (it should be very firm); old ginger is soft with wrinkly skin.

Whole and sliced-into ginger can be stored in a cool, dark place and does not need to be refrigerated. It will keep for weeks. To ensure that it lasts for a long time, wrap it in a kitchen towel and put it into a closable box or a paper bag. For sliced ginger, the cut surface will become woody—simply cut off the end and use the remaining root as usual.

You can store sliced or chopped ginger in an airtight container in the fridge for it to last up to 3 weeks. Ginger may also be frozen to extend shelf-life; the hardened surface is even easier to grate in this form. Frozen ginger can be stored up to three months. In general, whole and unpeeled ginger lasts significantly longer.

Can ginger be eaten raw?

Many of ginger’s vitamins and minerals are heat-sensitive. Accordingly, eating ginger raw is the best way to get the most out of it. Gingerol, the nutritious and spicy compound found in the root, is highly concentrated in its raw form. But beware: For some, eating too much of raw ginger could cause diarrhea, flatulence, or heartburn—but this only occurs when eating large amounts. Generally, it is recommended to eat around 5 g/0.2 oz a day.

Other recipes with ginger:

Of course, there’s more to do with ginger than just turn it into tea! We love to incorporate it into pumpkin soups, stir-fries, and curries for a bit of kick, eat it pickled with sushi, and add it candied into baked goods. Plus, there’s room for creativity in the beverage department: from golden milk to holiday punches to homemade ginger ale—we trust you’ll have no problem meeting your daily dosage this winter!

How do you drink or cook with ginger? Tell us in the comments!

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