How many times have you walked through your grocery store’s produce section and seen a bin full of funky-shaped, tan-colored, root-looking things? As you reach for that predictable bell pepper or bag of baby carrots, your eyes skim over that bin and you hesitate. You consider picking up one, but then hurriedly grab your pepper or carrots instead, because well, you know what to do with those. But you’re doing yourself a huge disservice because that root-looking thing or actually, rhizome, is ginger and it deserves a spot in your refrigerator! I asked Bryan Roof, Executive Food Editor for Cook’s Country Magazine to help explain why!

First, Ginger 101

Ginger is in fact, not a root at all, it’s a rhizome, a type of stem that grows horizontally under the ground of which new roots and stems are produced. What’s cooler than that? Not much! At the store, be sure to look for firm ginger that isn’t soft or dented and is free from mold. To remove the peel, Bryan recommends using a spoon or a paring knife. Save the peels to throw in soups or tea to add a perfect hint of ginger (you’ll want to remove before consuming). As for storing fresh ginger, Bryan suggests keeping it unpeeled, in a partially-closed resealable plastic bag. Stored this way, it can last for at least 2-3 weeks, if not longer.

How To Use Fresh Ginger

After you’ve peeled the ginger, how you cut it is up to you! If you’re looking for bolder, brighter, ginger flavor, Bryan recommends grating the ginger. If you want a less intense ginger experience, consider slicing or leaving the ginger in big pieces to “lightly perfume a dish” or cocktail. Fresh ginger makes a great addition to roasted root vegetable dishes and even your morning smoothie. Are you looking to use ginger like a culinary pro? Then take Bryan’s advice and pair it with lamb, sweet potatoes, fish, pineapple or your favorite noodle dish!

What About Dried Ground Ginger?

Now that you know how amazing fresh ginger is, why would you use the dried, ground version? Because your pumpkin pie calls for it! Beyond that, so many other great recipes benefit from the subtleness that ground ginger supplies. Plus, dried ground ginger, if stored properly, is a handy, versatile spice to have hanging around in your pantry. Bryan likes to use dried ground ginger for baking and spice rubs and for dishes such as paté, or in a tagline or pulse salad. His bottom-line recommendation? “It’s all about experimenting in moderation to start, until you find the threshold for both dry and fresh. Don’t overdo right out of the gate.”

And Nutritionally Speaking

Sick to your stomach? Try ginger! Feeling nauseous? A little ginger should help! Ginger has been used by civilizations around the world for centuries to cure these and all sorts of other ailments. And it’s no wonder considering it’s stellar nutritional profile! Ginger is rich in powerful antioxidants, including Vitamin C and it also supplies magnesium and potassium, which promote heart health. Nutritionally (and culinarily) speaking, it’s a rhizome worth consuming!

Share your best uses for ginger with us in the comments section!

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