Ginger root is a tuber that is widely used in cooking and in natural medicine. Sliced, pickled ginger root is commonly used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine. It is an important ingredient in many Thai dishes, and it is a beloved flavor by those who enjoy ginger snap cookies. Both spicy and sweet, ginger root is used in sweet dishes and baked goods as well as in savory and spicy dishes. In natural medicine it is used to treat or cure many illnesses, especially those having to do with the digestive tract.
Mature ginger root is sold at many grocery stores, especially those that cater to people who cook Asian dishes and those that carry health foods. Like most roots, the exterior is quite dry and a bit of liquid comes out when it is sliced. As such, ginger root is often sold without any packaging. The interior of the root is quite fibrous. Most slices of ginger are cut against the grain of the root's fibers, which can be quite long.
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As ginger root has quite a strong flavor, many recipes only call for a small amount. Ginger tea, for example, can be made with a mug of hot water and just a few thin slices of the root. Ginger tea is used to cure the common cold and the flu as well as to assuage stomach aches and promote better function in the digestive tract. Many people prefer to drink ginger tea that has been sweetened either with honey or with rock sugar. A squeeze of lemon is also a nice addition to this kind of tea.
Tea is not the only beverage that calls for ginger. In fact, ginger is a common beverage flavoring in the West where it is used in ginger ale and ginger beer. These two drinks, much like ginger tea, are often consumed to assuage colds and digestive discomfort. Many of the medicinal uses of ginger root are attributed to folk medicine, but are practiced in many parts of the world even where modern medicine is readily available.
Some recipes call for the use of ginger powder, which is a powdered form of ginger root. This is common in baked goods such as ginger bread cookies and similar sweet breads and pastries. However, ginger powder can also be used as a substitute for fresh ginger when making ginger tea.