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Spice History: Ginger

Some people may be surprised to learn that ginger is a tropical loving plant. The ginger that we enjoy is the root of the plant. Found in the same family as turmeric and cardamom, it’s a perennial that spreads itself by rhizomes. It’s a shame we only enjoy the root as the ginger plant blooms with beautiful pink and white sweet-smelling flowers. It’s one of the flowers often used for making Hawaiian leis.

Like cinnamon, ginger is a plant that has been used and cherished since antiquity. First discovered in Asia and India, it was grown and loved by the Chinese. It is said that Confucius ate ginger at every meal. Later it was one of the many spices exported to Europe on the spice trade routes. It was very costly and greatly treasured. From Asia, it spread over the world and was brought to the New World by the Spanish.

Ginger, like peppermint or lavender, is one of the most well known spices used medicinally. This pungent spice is a strong antimicrobial and helps boost the immune system. It is well known to help with nausea and improve digestion. Ginger is also what herbalists reach for to help combat against cold and flu season. Ginger tea is an excellent way to enjoy this spice!

Did you know that you can actually grow your own ginger from a plant at the grocery store? Ginger takes some love and attention, but it is fairly easy to cultivate. You can even grow it indoors! If you plant ginger in the fall or winter, it should be sending up green shoots by spring.

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