Herb of the Year for 2023 Ginger - (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is a spice that is native to Asia, where it has been grown for at least the past 4,400 years! Fresh or dried, ginger's gnarled roots possess a fragrant fiery heat as well as compounds that aid in digestion, in fact Confucius notes that he is never without ginger when he eats. It is a well known "tummy settler" and anti nausea aid.
Describing the heat in spices and herbs is very subjective but I think it is safe to say that ginger possesses a zesty heat, with a clean - slightly sweet edge. As a culinary flavouring it has been used in everything from wonderful Indian curries to Thai stir fries as well as yummy gingerbread and of course, ginger ale.
Ginger's genus name - Zingiber is derived from the Greek zingiberis, which in turn comes from the ancient Sanskrit word sringabera which means "horn shaped." This really refers to the "knobby" shape of the plants roots, or more correctly stated, rhizomes. These rhizomes are the parts used in cooking and in Chinese herbal medicine where it has been a common anodyne for nausea and digestive upsets since the fourth century B.C.E. Both the Greeks and Romans imported it from the east, and ate it as a cure for intestinal parasites. During the middle ages it was held in such high esteem, it was said to come from the Garden of Eden! By the 13th century, Marco Polo had seen it growing in China and India. Tariff duties were levied on ginger in Barcelona, Paris and Marseilles. By the 14th century it was so popular in England it was second only to black pepper. In more recent times it has been prescribed by modern herbal medical practitioners to treat nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness. Because of its antiseptic properties, ginger is used to treat infections of the digestive tract such as food poisoning. Fresh ginger can be used to treat sore throat and ginger tea to treat colds, flu and headaches. As an extract concentrate it is used to treat osteoarthritis.
The easiest way for us to cultivate ginger is to pop round to your favorite grocery store and pick up a few pieces of fresh ginger. Look for the "knobby" bits - buds or eyes (to you and me) that appear healthy and not "dried out" put it into a 4 inch pot to start it off in good rich loam, water well, keep moderately warm and it should have shoots coming out in about 2 weeks. Keep potting on into a larger pot until it is strong and healthy enough to be moved into your garden (or garden pot) at the appropriate time in the spring, depending on where you live this is usually after the last frost date. Smile and talk to it nicely for about 9 months and you should have a very good ginger crop to be used fresh, dried, preserved, pickled or as an essential oil. Don't forget to keep a nice plump rhizome and start the process all over again for a continuous crop.
How to Use Ginger
Fresh Ginger Tea
Slice one inch of fresh ginger into small pieces and simmer in 2 cups of water on low heat for 15 minutes. Strain. Drink 1 to 3 cups per day for coughs and colds and to enhance circulation. Perfect wintertime before bed tea!
Homemade Ginger Ale
Combine in a saucepan 1 inch grated fresh ginger - 1 cup of water and 3/4 cup raw sugar. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and steep, covered for 1 hour. Strain syrup and refrigerate for an additional hour. Pour into 2 liter container with tight fitting lid. Add 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 6 cups bottled water and shake to mix. Leave container at room temp for 48 hours and then refrigerate. Should keep for about 10 days.
Herb of the Year Criteria
The International Herb Association established National Herb Week in 1991 and every year since 1995 they have chosen an Herb Of The Year. The Herb Of The Year must fulfill its mandate by being useful in 2 out of 3 categories: Medicinal, Culinary or Decorative.
The original use of herbs was for medicine. In ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Assyria the treatment of diseases was performed by the use of herbs and spices either ingested or used as a poultice, salve, balm or the ancient word 'nard.' Arcane herbal knowledge has come down to us through the generations and today we look to the past finding out how our ancestors used herbs on a daily basis to keep their households healthy and happy. Here in San Antonio we are part of an ancient native American culture that used herbs for healing and in food preparation daily. There is no substitute for clipping a handful of fresh herbs from your garden or a pot on your kitchen window adding flavor and freshness to your dinner table and in so doing improving our health and linking us to centuries of herbal knowledge.
What Is An Herb? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, an herb is defined as a "(1) seed plant that lacks woody tissue and dies to the ground at the end of a growing season. (2) A plant or plant part valued for medicinal or savory qualities." The value of the plant can be in its leaves, stems, seeds or root. They are valued and harvested for their flavor, healthful qualities, fragrance or dye. Examples such as mint, oregano, cilantro and basil are harvested for their leaves which we primarily use in our kitchens. Spices are the woody parts or seeds of herbaceous plants. Examples are caraway, fennel, sesame, black pepper and cinnamon.
Come and help us celebrate Ginger as Herb of the Year 2023 at October's Herb Market at the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio
October 14th, 2023 - 9 am to 1 pm
Herb Of The Year:
2005 Oregano and Marjoram
2006 Scented Geraniums
2007 Lemon Balm
2009 Bay Laurel
2016 Peppers Caspicum ssp.
2020 Rubus ssp. (Blackberries,
Raspberries et al.)
2021 Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
2022 Viola (Violet, Johnny Jump Ups)
2023 Herb of the year - Ginger
Edible Ginger Flower