What is Ginger?
First, what is ginger? Ginger, or ginger root, has made itself well-known as a spicy and delicious cure for digestive issues and a way to warm the stomach. This bumpy, yellow root has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for thousands of years and belongs to the same family as turmeric and galangal roots. You can easily find ginger in both your Asian and American grocery stores.
Young vs. Old Ginger
Did you know that there are different applications and health benefits between young ginger and old (commercial) ginger? This is in reference to when the ginger is harvested. Young ginger is harvested around seven to eight months while commercial ginger is harvested around 10 to 11 months.
Appearance wise, young ginger is lighter in color, sometimes even white or pink, has a smoother surface with less ridges, and is thicker with less small connecting roots. Taste wise, young ginger is milder, sweeter, more tender, and juicier. Most American grocery stores sell commercial ginger, which are darker brown, have many ridges and bumps, and are very spicy. Young ginger can typically be found in many Asian grocery stores.
Why Young Ginger is Healthier
Young ginger often is healthier than commercial ginger. Studies at Virginia State University (VSU) show that polyphenols and antioxidants contained in ginger are significantly higher in young ginger. The research confirms that immature ginger contains twice as many polyphenols and 2-3X more antioxidant activity than the commercial ginger found in most grocery stores. Polyphenols are compounds found in plant-based foods that have antioxidants and can lower risk of disease. Antioxidants help ward off cell damage by “cleaning up” cell waste, called free radicals, before they can do harm.
In addition, young ginger has higher gingerol content than old or commercial ginger. Gingerol is the main bioactive compound found in ginger that helps with many conditions, including digestion, reducing nausea, and fighting the common cold. According to Johns Hopkins, gingerol benefits gastrointestinal motility, which is the rate at which food exits the stomach and continues along the digestive process. Eating ginger encourages efficient digestion, so food does linger as long in the gut.
Ways to Eat Young Ginger
Because young ginger is milder and less pungent than traditional ginger, there are many different ways you can eat young ginger! Here are a few:
1) Pickled Sushi Ginger
Young ginger has a mild zesty flavor and a fine fleshy texture that is tender. Unlike matured ginger that’s usually used for cooking, the young ginger’s skin is very thin and easy to peel with fingers or a spoon. Because of this, young ginger is perfect for making Pickled Sushi Ginger.
2) Stir Fried or Braised Chicken
The crunchy and juiciness of young or baby ginger lends itself to be a great addition to stir fry or savory dishes. Check out Michelin Guide’s recipe for Braised Chicken with Young Ginger.
3) Fresh Ginger Shots
To get the full health benefits of young ginger, making fresh ginger shots is a good and tasty option. In fact, cooking ginger often breaks down ginger’s most important compound, gingerol. Ginger juice is a great way to reap all the health benefits and gingerol of this root. Check out this recipe for Ginger Shots.