A subtropical plant grown for its nobby root (rhizome or underground stem). The root has tan skin, ivory to pale green flesh, and a peppery, slightly sweet flavor. Ginger is planted in August or September using the previous year's crop. Ginger takes about nine months to reach maturity. After the flowers appear, the tops begin to die, leaving the ginger rhizomes ready to harvest Ginger is a mainstay of Asian and Indian cooking and is used grated, ground and slivered. Ginger juice is the juice of the root. Candied or crystallized ginger is ginger cooked in a sugar syrup, while preserved ginger is in a sugar-salt mixture: both of these are used primarily for sweets and desserts. Pickled ginger, used as a palate cleanser with sushi, is ginger preserved in sweet vinegar.
Season: available year-round
How to select: Look for smooth skin (wrinkles indicate that the root is dry and past prime) with a fresh spicy aroma. Also available dried and ground in the spice section. Specialty or Asian markets carry ginger juice, pickled ginger and preserved ginger.
How to store: Unpeeled and tightly wrapped ginger will keep in the refrigerator for 3 weeks; frozen for 6 months.
How to prepare: For older roots, it may be necessary to remove the thick outer skin before cooking.
Matches well with: carrots, chicken, chocolate, fruit, ham, ice cream, melon, onions, pork, pumpkin, rice, tomatoes.
Substitutions: 1/8 tsp ground ginger = 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger (though the flavor of ground ginger can be significantly different from fresh).