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Ginger: The Wonder Spice

By Siri Ved Kaur

Ginger promotes health and healing in many ways. According to Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal lore, it strengthens the nervous system, restores sexual energy, strengthens the immune system, helps with bronchial problems, prevents and relieves menstrual cramps, clears the uterus after childbirth, and promotes health recovery (builds strength from long-term illness).

When shopping, select gingerroot that is firm, fresh in appearance, with wrinkle-free skin. Wrinkly, dried-up gingerroot can be woody, tough, stringy, difficult to chop, and unpleasant to chew!

How to Prepare: Always peel ginger before chopping or slicing (it's OK to leave the skins on for tea). This can be done with a potato peeler (which will take some of the flesh along with it), or by scraping with the edge of a paring knife. I prefer the latter method as virtually none of the ginger is wasted. To chop, slice thinly along the grain. Then cut into thin matchstick-like strips. These can be chopped into the desired length (1/8" for mincing, up to 1-1/2" for curries, etc.). Gingerroot also can be successfully chopped with a food processor. Chop with short pulses, being careful not to over process.

When I peel and chop ginger for cooking I like to save the peels and use them for a nice pot of Ginger Tea:

The easiest way to enjoy ginger is with Ginger Tea. Take about 2-3" of ginger, wash it well, and slice thinly. Boil in 6-8 cups of water for 20 minutes. Add a little milk if you like and sweeten to taste. Ginger tea is both soothing and invigorating, and is the best thing for women during menstruation.

Also, I like to make Yogi Tea (available in supermarkets and natural food stores) with extra ginger. Just boil 4 teabags in a quart of water with about 2" of thinly sliced ginger for 10-15 minutes.

Feel a bug coming on?? Chew on a slice of raw ginger every hour. If you have a juicer, toss a 1/2" piece of ginger in before your other veggies. Good combos are: Carrot-Apple-Ginger, Apple-Ginger, and Carrot-Beet-Ginger. Ginger juice can also be mixed with fresh lemon juice and honey for help with coughs. Although I have no tolerance for caffeine and very rarely drink colas, I have found that this combination suggested by Yogi Bhajan for kicking viruses really works: 10 oz. Coca Cola, 2-3 oz. ginger juice, and 2-3 oz. lemon juice.

To restore sexual energy: Here is another recipe given by Yogi Bhajan many years ago. It is best taken warm by men right after sexual intercourse (best when lovingly made by his partner):
10 oz. warm milk
2 tsp. minced or finely grated gingerroot (3/4" piece)
1 Tbsp. unhulled sesame seeds or raw sesame butter
1 tsp. honey or maple syrup
Whiz sesame seeds in coffee grinder until finely ground. Combine all ingredients in blender and process at high speed until smooth and frothy.

Use fresh ginger in baking and cooking instead of ginger powder. For outstanding gingerbread, use grated fresh ginger. Substitute 1 Tbsp. of fresh ginger (or more) for each teaspoon of ginger powder. For Stir-Fried Vegetables, peel and slice ginger into 1" matchsticks. Heat oil in your wok or skillet and sizzle the ginger (with a crushed garlic clove, too) for a minute before adding vegetables. A fantastic topping for steamed or sauteed vegetables is simply made by sizzling ginger matchsticks in ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil until crispy. Drain and sprinkle over veggies, rice or tofu.

Ginger Mint Cooler
4 cups water
4 oz. gingerroot, washed and sliced thinly
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
3-4 Tbsp. honey
1 liter sparkling mineral water

Bring water to boil in saucepan. Add ginger slices, cover and lower heat. Cook at low boil for 20 minutes. Strain. Put this strong ginger tea in blender jar with mint leaves and honey and blend well. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

Take the ginger-mint ice cubes and crush (with ice crusher or blender). Fill tall glasses with crushed ice. Pour sparkling mineral water over. Garnish with mint leaves.

Siri Ved Kaur is the author of two vegetarian cookbooks, numerous food columns in Beads of Truth and Aquarian Times magazines, founder of the True Tales memoir writing group and website, and has also served on the executive board of Writers of Kern for the last few years. After being an active member of the Guru Ram Das Ashram Community of Los Angeles for over 35 years, Siri Ved and her husband, Gurujodha Singh, moved to Bakersfield, California in 2008, where she works as a healthcare administrator. ©2000 There’s a Yogi in the Kitchen