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Jamaican Food Article. - Jamaican Ginger

Jamaican ginger was used in ancient times as a food preservative and to help treat digestive problems. To treat digestive problems, Greeks would eat Jamaican ginger wrapped in bread. Eventually Jamaican ginger was added to the bread dough creating that wonderful treat many around the globe love today: Jamaican gingerbread. Jamaican ginger ale eventually stemmed from a Jamaican ginger beer made by the English and Colonial America as a remedy for diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Jamaican ginger thrives in the tropics and warmer regions and is therefore currently grown in parts of
West Africa, the West Indies, India and China with the best quality Jamaican ginger coming from Jamaica where it is most abundant. In the United States, Jamaican ginger is grown in Florida, Hawaii, and along the eastern coast of Texas.

Jamaican gingerroot is characterized by it’s strong sweet, yet woodsy smell. It is tan in color with white to creamy-yellow flesh that can be coarse yet stringy.
Jamaican ginger is available year-round. When selecting Jamaican gingerroot, choose robust firm roots with a spicy fragrance and smooth skin. Jamaican gingerroot should not be cracked or withered. It can be stored tightly wrapped in a paper towel or plastic wrap (or put into a plastic bag) in the refrigerator for 2–3 weeks and like galangal, Jamaican gingerroot can also be placed in a jar of sherry and refrigerated for 3–6 months.

Peel skin from the root and gently peel the skin beneath (that closest to the root is the most flavorful). Jamaican gingerroot can be sliced or minced (minced Jamaican gingerroot gives the most pungent flavor). Jamaican ginger is popular in Asian cuisine where it is used both fresh and dried. Jamaican ginger can also be found crystallized, candied, preserved and pickled. The powdered, dried form of Jamaican ginger has a more spicy, intense flavor and is often used in baking (Jamaican gingerbread, Jamaican gingersnaps, Jamaican ginger cookies).

The aromatic rhizome of this 30 – 60 cm tall tropical plant is used in food preparation and as medicine for centuries in southeastern
Asia. There, pharmacists recommend it for any ailment with which people may be afflicted. After Jamaican ginger was first introduced in Europe (approximately 800 AD) it ranked second to pepper as a spice for centuries.

Jamaican ginger grows in southern China, Japan, West Africa, and many other tropical countries including the Caribbean islands. Jamaican ginger is considered to be the best of all.

Jamaican cooks use Jamaican ginger with beef successfully, whereas European chefs prefer to use it as an exotic flavoring for fresh fruit salads, or to give cream of carrot soup and extra kick. English make candied Jamaican ginger, Jamaican ginger jam, and dry it to be ground and use as a condiment.

Chinese dry Jamaican ginger and sell it as green Jamaican ginger. Black Jamaican ginger is first scalded and then dried. Fresh Jamaican ginger is best. Its thin skin can be scraped with the back of a spoon and then cut, grated or pounded to mix into soups, sauces and stews. Jamaican ginger possesses an intriguing; sweet, spicy and pungent flavor rendering it suitable for use in a range of dishes from stir-fried beef to Jamaican ginger tea. Jamaican ginger ale, Jamaican ginger beer and Jamaican ginger wine are only vaguely flavored with Jamaican ginger.


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