Recommended reading: Bring spices to your life, Journey with spices – Leafy Spices, Journey with spices – Kernels and Seeds, Journey with spices – Cinnamon, and Journey with spices – Pepper and paprika.
Funnily most of the spices in the table above coming from Asia are yellow, brown or yellow-green, green leafy spices are mostly originating from Mediterranean Europe (Spain, France, Italy, and Greece), red spicy chillies, habaneros and Peruvian pepper come from Central and Latin America. This way we can paint parts of the world in the colours of spices. And as we all know spices are not bringing only taste to our food, they are also used as colouring agents.
As mentioned in title I will focus mostly on spices where the spice part is root or rhizome. Root spices are rare. Most notable members of the root family are celery, coriander, horseradish, and liquorice. Rhizome family spices are ginger, turmeric, and wasabi.
Recently I’ve been in Helsinki giving a lecture on Agile localization. During the lunch break we went to a nearby Japanese restaurant, tasting traditional miso soup, different kinds of sushi and sashimi, and refreshed our palate with green tea. I remember “lecturing” people that wasabi is a Japanese horseradish, the green root. Now I know I was wrong. Wasabi root is actually a rhizome. Similar is with pickled ginger. Just a brief explanation: rhizome is an underground stem.
Funny! I use celery as a vegetable. Sometimes I serve it steamed as a side dish, together with carrots and kohlrabi. Usually I grate it when making Bolognese sauce for my favourite spaghetti. I never use celery as a spice. I don’t even remember ever seeing it on the spice shelves in my local supermarket.
All about ginger
As I was growing up I first came across Ginger when watching her in a movie with Fred Astaire. Ginger Rogers has revolutionized the Hollywood musical genre.
We all know ginger ale. It’s a carbonated soft drink flavoured with ginger.
Pickled ginger or Gari is sweet, thinly sliced marinated (pickled) ginger. It’s often eaten after sushi, and is sometimes called sushi ginger. It is usually eaten between sushi bytes, because it cleanses the palate.
Most of all we use ginger as spice. It originates from China and was later spread to other parts of the world, namely India, Indonesia, Nepal, and even Nigeria. Together these countries account for total 85% of total yearly ginger production.
Tea brewed from ginger is common folk remedy for cold. In China scrambled eggs with finely diced ginger root is a common home remedy for coughing. In the United States, ginger is used to prevent motion and morning sickness.
Did you know that ginger possesses aphrodisiac powers? It is mentioned in the Kama Sutra. In Philippines it is chewed to expel evil spirits. Ginger causes one to sweat. According to historical notes Henry VIII asked the mayor of London to use ginger as a plague medicine.
Ginger Milk Tea
3 1/2 cups (840 mL) hot water
4 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons loose black tea leaves
1/2 cup (120 mL) milk
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
Bring the water and ginger to a boil in a small pot. Once it is boiling, turn off the heat. Stir in tea and cover. Let stand 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir in milk and sugar, and add more sugar if needed to suit your taste buds. Pour the mixture through a sieve into a large (6-cup) blender, discarding the solids. Blend the mixture until foamy (use caution when blending hot liquids), then pour into mugs. Serve immediately.