You haven’t really had a good cup of ginger tea until you’ve had one made with Jamaican ginger. I grew up on the stuff and I’ve got to tell you, it’s far more potent than any others I’ve had. Why is that? I’m not quite sure where to place the credit but I’m elated to share more about it with you.
The part of the plant we use and incorrectly label “ginger root” (if we’re being really technical) is the rhizome of some variety of the zingiber plant. For the purposes of this article, I will be using the term “ginger root” since it is what most of us are familiar with and I have no intention of complicating your comprehension of this wonderful plant when we leave here today.
There is a book by one of my favorite writers of works I believe every West Indian child should have. It’s called The Cloud with the Silver Lining by C. Everard Palmer. His books paint the most vivid recollections of the colorful and flavorful Jamaican culture, usually through the eyes of a local child as the rhythms of the people erupt from the pages. The Jamaican ginger plays a critical role in this particular book. It relates how traditionally, the Jamaican ginger wasn’t a plant cultivated in or near places inhabited. Young boys would look forward to harvesting their ginger in the mountains and forests before Christmastime. This would be used for treats like cakes, candy, ice-cream, juices and so much more. In more recent years, this zingiber is grown closer to home and cultivated on a much larger scale as the demand is very high among the locals, despite the fact that local markets offer other imported varieties. There is a reason for that.
It’s a terrific plant that serves culinary, cosmetic and ornamental purposes. The ginger plant erupts from the soil in single stems that grow to an average of three feet. The slender, green leaves release the pleasant ginger aroma when crushed or sprayed with rain. The leave and stems can also be steeped in hot water to make teas and refreshing drinks. When the roots are mature, the gorgeous inflorescence rises from the ground – not from the stems – and can possess an array of colors including cream, peach, yellow, orange, pink, red, or pomegranate. If you live in colder areas where frost is expected, your ginger stems will die back at the end of the season and you can harvest your roots but store a few in an old newspaper for planting next season.
PLANTING & CARE
Plant your ginger in a partially shaded area with filtered or indirect sunlight and away from strong winds. You can plant it in your garden, landscape or in a pot. I’ve harvested ginger from my pots in a New York apartment several times over and you can too. It’s a really easy plant to grow. It is very important that the ginger is planted in breathable earth. If your soil is heavy and rich that has its’ benefits but it isn’t good enough. Mix in some sand, peanut shells, and sawdust for better breathability. Do not overwater and try to allow the soil to dry out a little between watering.
USES & BENEFITS
Ginger has been used for centuries for its’ culinary and its’ medicinal purposes. It adds flavor unmatched to juices, teas, stews, sauces, soups, ice-cream, pastries, sweets and more. It can be powdered or dried and stored for longer periods as well. Ginger oil is extracted not only for culinary use but also for topical application in massages and treatment of burns, bites other sources of skin irritation. Yet, there is still so much more to appreciate about this ginger thing.
The Jamaican ginger is a good source of an array of antioxidants and nutrients like B-Complex Vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Iron, and Zinc. These help to relieve digestive problems including nausea, loss of appetite, compromised respiratory function, bacterial infections, fungal infections, ulcers, motion sickness and pain and has been used in the treatment of morning sickness and cancer. The Jamaican ginger can also help decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality. It encourages healthy, supple skin, mouth and hair and boosts your energy levels!
This ginger promotes sweating as it is a diuretic so if you live in an icebox this is a great way to warm the body from the inside out. Moreover, it is an excellent way to treat cold and flu symptoms. In our article – Winter is Coming – we highlight some of the ways ginger can be used to arm yourself and your loved ones against the onslaught of bugs and illnesses that are likely to attack during colder seasons.
Let’s not forget that the Jamaican ginger is also pleasantly fragrant and can be used in aroma therapy. Ginger oil is one of my favorite recommendations for massages and skin treatments. My beloved grandmother has been living with arthritis for years. A good massage of problem areas with some ginger oil provides soothing relief of pain and discomfort and is appealing to the senses in the same breath. Best of all, there is no research to suggest that there are health risks to using this ginger in any way so your inclusion of the Jamaican ginger in your lifestyle can be worry-free… so go on, get to know the Jamaican zingiber and have fun with it!