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

2016 Homes of the Year

2016 Homes of the Year

Our independent panel of judges recognizes three local, unique residences as our Homes of the Year in the categories of New Build, Renovation and Green.
Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Back From the Dead? Parkway Center Focus of New Development Talk

Back From the Dead? Parkway Center Focus of New Development Talk

Aside from a Giant Eagle, the mall has been empty for the past three years.
Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Great Catch: Easiest Way to Tasty Lenten Fish Frys

Looking for a delicious battered fish sandwich or golden-brown pierogies on Friday? Here’s a handy guide plus a few fun facts about our fascination with fish.
Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

Sweetheart Ideas: How to Make the Most out of Valentine's Day

From a hotel “Love Lockdown,” to a museum breakfast in bed, to a rooftop singles event - there's plenty to eat, drink at do in Pittsburgh on this weekend for love.
Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

Beer News: East End Brewing Moving to Bigger Space in Strip District

The new space, called the East End Brewery Taproom, will offer lunch and dinner service, expanded hours and a place for customers to sit and enjoy a pint of beer from one of the brewery’s 12 taps.

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

2016 Homes of the Year

2016 Homes of the Year

Our independent panel of judges recognizes three local, unique residences as our Homes of the Year in the categories of New Build, Renovation and Green.
Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

Goin' to the Chapel – Or Not?

With so many options in and around the city, every couple can find the special space that feels just right — whether they’re looking for nature, rustic charm, fairytale romance, stained-glass beauty, treasured religious ritual or classic tradition.
Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Underground Pittsburgh: Explore our City of Tunnels

Delve below the surface to explore the underground areas that serve as vital pathways to our region.
Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Kitchen Roots: Ruta, Solomonov and Ehland

Chefs who grew up in Pittsburgh are shaping the culinary scene in other cities across the country — and gaining national recognition in the process.
Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

Restaurant Review: Gaucho Parrilla Argentina is Smokin'

The meat-centric restaurant in the Strip District is helping to redefine Pittsburgh's dining expectations.
Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

Cranking Out Old School Valentines Sealed with a Quirk

In Lawrenceville, a love for letterpress leads to a business whose greeting cards reach audiences across the country.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Back From the Dead? Parkway Center Focus of New Development Talk

Back From the Dead? Parkway Center Focus of New Development Talk

Aside from a Giant Eagle, the mall has been empty for the past three years.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

PittGirl: Yikes! Imagine This Instead of a Fountain at the Point

City leaders considered many options for Pittsburgh's confluence including something that looked like it was designed by the Jetsons, or an absolutely bonkers, batpoop insane idea by the one and only Frank Lloyd Wright.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh Chef Move: Lily Tran New Executive Chef of Soba

Pittsburgh Chef Move: Lily Tran New Executive Chef of Soba

Tran takes over big Burrito's Ellsworth Ave. restaurant from Dustin Gardner, who moves back to Casbah on Highland Ave.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

7 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


End Your Work Day at Muddy Waters' Oyster Happy Hour

End Your Work Day at Muddy Waters' Oyster Happy Hour

Some of the best oysters available in Pittsburgh can be yours for a steal at the new East Liberty spot.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Super Bowl Predictions: Can I Have That One Back?

Denver's upset win over Carolina -- predicted by hardly anyone (including yours truly) -- should be interpreted as good news for Steelers' fans.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Shirts We Love For Valentine’s Day

Let your heart do the talking with these fun sweaters from Rosewood Boutique.

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.
George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

George Clooney, Jane Austen, Nicholas Sparks and Some Zombies Walk Into a Multiplex

Our reviews of "Hail, Caesar!," "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and "The Choice."

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
This is How You Pop the Question: Four Fabulous Proposals

This is How You Pop the Question: Four Fabulous Proposals

On Day Four of our Week of Wedded Bliss, we said “yes!” to these four beautiful proposals from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings couples.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Say Hello (and Goodbye) to These Home & Lifestyle Shops

Say Hello (and Goodbye) to These Home & Lifestyle Shops

Divertido and Jack + Jules close in Lawrenceville, while the neighborhood welcomes Brambler Boutique. Plus, Splurge expands to a new location in Fox Chapel.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

Mock Crime Scene to be Held at Waynesburg University

The event is for high school students who are interested in criminal justice, law enforcement and forensic science.

Comments