Ginger

Fresh, spicy and seasonal, ginger can heat up your March menus.



Photo by Laura Petrilla

Around here, March blows in feeling like winter. While our spring crops are still nothing but seeds, it’s the peak of the harvest for fresh ginger in Hawaii.

This tropical rhizome—not a root exactly, but a tuber-like stem with roots of its own—is delicious and versatile. If you find yourself using it exclusively to prepare Asian dishes, rotate it into more frequent use and see just how well it can mesh with all kinds of flavors.
 

ginger lemon muffin

Lemon-Ginger
Muffins recipe

Like lemon, ginger’s bright, refreshing aroma complements sweet and savory foods. Its complex flavor has flowery, citrusy, woody and peppery notes with spicy heat that becomes more pronounced as the rhizome matures (young ginger can taste rather mild).

Indigenous to southern Asia, it was domesticated there in prehistoric times. When Chinese cookery as we know it emerged around the 12th century B.C., ginger’s sharp, clean taste was a key building block in dishes that remain popular today, such as noodles with minced pork and ginger. Equally important were its medicinal and spiritual aspects: Its warming properties were considered to speed healing and build ch’i, or spiritual life energy.

Ginger came to the New World during the era of Columbus in the 15th century. It took root in the Caribbean—today, Jamaica remains a large producer—and in dried form became a staple of Colonial New England cookery. For 200 years after the first settlers arrived, candied ginger, ginger cookies, ginger ice cream and gingerbread were hugely popular. More American than apple pie, the spice was so common that it was included in the rations provided to soldiers during the Revolutionary War.

Today, dried ginger is less popular here than it used to be, while fresh ginger is on the upswing. Twenty years ago, it was exotic and hard to find, but now it’s stocked in most grocery stores. Yet it still retains an air of mystery for many of us cooks, or we use it only when an Asian-inspired dish like ginger beef is on the menu.

But considering ginger’s unequaled flavors, it’s time to change that and find new uses for this healthy, warming rhizome. A good start is our recipe for ginger-lemon muffins (below), which incorporates ginger in a thoroughly American manner—a sweet breakfast treat that’s perfect for pairing with a hot cup of coffee.

In Pittsburgh and throughout the country, most fresh ginger you’ll find comes from Hawaii, where the harvest runs from December to June and peaks in February and March. So while using fresh ginger doesn’t exactly mean shopping local, it is, at least, seasonal, and the quality right now is high. Follow these tips for making the most of it while the season is at its peak.
 

How to Buy

Shop for ginger that is weighty and rock-hard to the touch—pieces should not look wrinkly or feel light for their size. Polished, smooth skin is a hallmark of ginger from Hawaii, but since ginger imported from elsewhere can taste just as good but have rougher skin, the exterior appearance isn’t always a marker of quality. Most well-stocked groceries carry fresh ginger as do Asian grocery stores such as Lotus Food Co. (1649 Penn Ave., Strip District; 412/281-3050).
 

How to Prepare

Once you are ready to prepare the ginger, peel it with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Using a sharp knife (a dull one will have trouble with the roots’ fibrous quality), slice across the fibers. Make slices as thin as possible if you will be cutting them again into matchsticks or finely dicing them.

Japanese-made ceramic graters of extreme hardness are designed specifically for grating ginger, with rows of sharp teeth that shred the rhizome and leave unwanted fibers behind. These unique graters also work for grating lemon zest, chocolate or nutmeg and usually cost less than $15—look for the Kyocera brand at well-stocked Asian groceries and kitchen stores or on amazon.com.
 

How to Store and Use

Place fresh ginger in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb moisture (to prevent mold from developing), and store it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Generally, the quality will be best if used within a week, although it should stay fresh for two to three.

If you’re not quite sure what dish to make, sites like epicurious.com or your own bookshelf should be a fine resource for recipes. Start with classic Asian or Indian dishes such as Chinese ginger beef, stir-fried Asian eggplant with ginger or Indian chicken korma. For something different, try our ginger-lemon muffins, or look up a recipe for homemade chai tea.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.
8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

8 Things You Might Not Know About Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit

When you compare what it cost to build the coaster in 1920 to what it would cost today, it's obvious Kennywood's owners got their money's worth.
Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

Second New Restaurant Moving into Union Trust Building

The upscale seafood eatery is expected to open in late 2016 or early 2017.
Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Local Filmmaker Celebrates Pittsburgh Food

Artist David Bernabo creates a series of films that track various aspects of Pittsburgh's food culture.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best Restaurants 2016

Best Restaurants 2016

Which 33 Pittsburgh-area establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

Six Pittsburgh Chefs Who Are Outstanding in Their Field

In addition to awarding Best Restaurant honors this year, our Independent Restaurant Review Panel also voted to recognize six chefs for their contributions to Pittsburgh’s culinary community in 2015.
Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

Citizen Artist: Vanessa German

German blends a collage of community activism and soul-searching artistry.
PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

PittGirl to Wooers: ‘Not Today Satan, Not Today’

It only takes one person, one jagoff, one childish, attention-seeking, discourteous jerk to send a woo through PNC Park.
Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Daytripping: Canonsburg is a City of Antiques

Nearby Canonsburg is a rare find for antiques collectors.
U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

U.S. Open at Oakmont: Will The Town Finally Be a Player?

The U.S. Open is returning to Oakmont — and unlike previous tournaments, this one could make the community a vital part of the action.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

5 Reasons PyroFest Will Light Up Your Memorial Day Weekend

PyroFest will also include live music, food, a Kids Zone and more.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

Richard DeShantz Plans Two New Restaurants at Salt of the Earth Building

DeShantz owns three other Pittsburgh restaurants and is about to open a fourth.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The Best 6 Places to Get a Cup of Tea in Pittsburgh

The quiet rise of Pittsburgh's tea scene gives us a few favorite gems.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

Highmark Stadium Pub Wants Your Attention

The in-house tavern at the Riverhounds' home stadium is now welcoming guests during weekdays. But is it worth a dedicated stop?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

Resurrected Penguins Writing Their Story Their Way

These Penguins have been downright unrecognizable, individually and collectively, on the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

Flip the Switch: Industrial-Style Lighting Made in Pittsburgh

An electrician by trade, designer Thomas Verscharen creates custom lighting out of repurposed pieces.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

The X-Men Would've Done Better in Wonderland

Reviews of "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Alice Through the Looking Glass," "A Bigger Splash" and "Love and Friendship."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Get with the (Wedding) Program

Get with the (Wedding) Program

Have you ever considered making programs for your wedding guests? If not, think again and get creative.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

A Tiny House that's Big on Energy Savings

Spread out across the city for these upcoming events, including a “Tiny House” exhibit at the Carnegie Science Center displayed by the FIY Network.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

Duquesne University to Host Small Business Networking Event

The event will connect hundreds of small business managers and owners and provide useful information to help them take their enterprises to the next level.

Comments