Digging Up Ginger
Here at Kitchen Excavation, there’s nothing I like better than an ancient, medicinal root crop with mysterious origins. And nothing fits this fascinating bill closer than ginger, the bumpy, root-like spice that’s captivated humanity for thousands of years! With ginger holding the illustrious title of the “most cultivated herb,” food archaeologists have been unable to pinpoint where exactly ginger comes from, since no wild ginger is known to exist. However, scores of ancient religious and medicinal texts can give us a good idea of its origins.
Thanks to written records from Chinese and Indian writers, ginger’s birthplace can be attributed to Southeast Asia, though the exact location of its inception remains a mystery. What we do know, however, is that ginger, even as early as ~2,800 BCE, was regarded as a highly beneficial herb. In the Chinese tradition, the Shennong Bencao Jing (or the Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica), ginger was listed among 120 other herbs used for treating illness. In a sutra from the Ayurvedic medicinal tradition of India, ginger is prescribed as an appetite stimulant and digestive aid which should be taken before each meal. Fast forward to the writing of the Qu’ran in the 7th century CE, wherein a drink infused with ginger is awarded to the righteous. With so many historic accounts touting the benefits of ginger (both medicinal and divine), let’s take a look at what modern medicine has to say about these ancient claims.
The Healing Power of Ginger
While you will find modern sources touting ginger as a true panacea for every ailment, I thought it best to promote only those uses that have been tested (which, not surprisingly, align perfectly with the ancient records of ginger’s healing power!). Just as the ancients believed, ginger is a powerful aid for nausea and digestive pain, and some evidence gives credence to the claim that ginger is capable of stimulating the appetite. Ginger can also provide relief from dizziness, menstrual pain, arthritis, and motion sickness. Of course, as many of us already know, ginger (typically administered in a soda can aside a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup) can also soothe anyone suffering from a sore throat, cold, or flu. And with winter being a frigid season of stuffy noses, what better time to brew our own batch of warm, healthful, corn syrup-free ginger ale?
Home-brewed Ginger Ale
- 3 Tablespoons fresh, grated ginger
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 7 1/2 cups water
- 1/8 teaspoon of active dry yeast (wine yeast would also work very well)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- Combine ginger, sugar, and 1/2 cup of water in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Remove the ginger syrup from the heat, and cover for 1 hour to allow the syrup to infuse with ginger flavor.
- After your syrup has steeped, strain the syrup into a bowl. Be sure to press out as much liquid from the ginger pulp as possible. Place your bowl of syrup in an ice bath or in the refrigerator to quickly reduce the temperature to ~70 F / ~20 C.
- Using a funnel, pour your refined syrup into a clean 2 liter bottle. Add in yeast, lemon juice, and remaining 7 cups of water. Cap the bottle, and gently shake to combine the ingredients.
- Allow the bottle to sit at room temperature for 48 hours. Open the bottle once a day to release any excess carbon dioxide.
- After two days have passed, check your bottle to determine the level of carbonation. When you’re satisfied with the fizziness of your ginger ale, immediately refrigerate the bottle for up to two weeks.
- Enjoy a fizzy, warm infusion of ancient modernity!