January 26th, 2012 Ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant. This gnarly, bumpy root has a firm, striated texture. The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white, or red in colour, depending on the variety. It is covered with brownish skin, thick or thin, depending on whether the plant was harvested mature or young. Ginger is in the same family as turmeric and cardamom. It’s taste is at once aromatic, pungent, and hot. Ginger’s name comes from the Middle English gingivere , but dates back over 3,000 years ago to the Sanskrit srngaveram meaning "horn root" with reference to its appearance. Ginger is likely to have originated in India. It has been grown in tropical Asia since ancient times; in fact, the use of ginger pre-dates historical records. Ginger has a long history in South Asia: it was written about in the Hindu Mahabharata in 4 BCE and was very important in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Potted ginger plants were carried on vessels travelling the maritime trade routes of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea by about 5 ACE, and likely before. Favoured for its medicinal properties, ginger was also a highly important article of trade, exported from India to the Roman Empire. Ginger was well known in Ancient Rome, but nearly disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire. It was thanks to Marco Polo’s trip to the Far East that ginger came back to favour in Europe. By Medieval times it was being imported to Europe in preserved form, to be used in sweets. By the 13th century ACE, ginger became much more widespread with the advent of Muslim rule in India. It was used to prepare meat dishes and drinks, fruit juices, teas, and buttermilk and curd products. During this time in England, ginger was much sought after and one pound of ginger was equivalent to the cost of a sheep! Queen Elizabeth I of England is credited with the invention of the gingerbread man, which became a popular Christmas treat. In the 16th century, ginger was introduced to Africa and the Caribbean, and is now widely cultivated in the tropics. Ginger is available fresh or dried, and in several other forms including crystallized, candied and pickled ginger. Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months. Ginger is very effective in preventing symptoms of motion sickness, especially seasickness (as well as reducing the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy). In one study, ginger was shown to be far superior to Dramamine, a common over-the-counter drug for motion sickness. Fresh ginger is a powerful anticarcinogen, protecting against colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer.