Recently, we were reminded of the many benefits of ginger, a spice that some consider a health phenomena. Friends invited us over for lunch and served us their home-made pickled ginger and the taste brought back good memories. Our friends told us they eat it with every meal because it makes their stomach feel better. Ginger is well known to aid in digestion. So, we went looking for fresh Hawaiian ginger to duplicate their delicious recipe.
Ginger is an underground stem, a rhizome, in the same family as turmeric ('olena in Hawaiian) and cardamom. The plant has been used for centuries worldwide for its many health benefits. Though it contains nutrients like potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin, and vitamin C, ginger is gaining acclaim for its more exotic contents like zingibain, proteolytic enzymes, and its pungent phenol compounds (gingerols and shogaols). Zingibain is a protein-digesting enzyme like papain in papaya and bromelain in pineapple. But, a single gram of zingibain can tenderize 20 pounds of meat which is why it helps digestion. Ginger’s enzymes are also considered an effective anti-inflammatory and some people report good results using it to alleviate their arthritis symptoms and pain.
Besides aiding digestion, ginger is an antioxidant more powerful than Vitamin E. And like aspirin, it inhibits the same blood thickening enzyme, without the side effects. In 1980, a group of Cornell Medical school researchers published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine that ginger inhibited the process of platelet aggregation. Ginger strengthens the heart muscle, lowers the serum cholesterol, and interferes with cholesterol biosynthesis. Ginger is also an analgesic (painkiller like aspirin), antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, kills parasites, and counters nausea and seasickness.
We found fresh Hawaiian ginger in Kona’s COSTCO and bought a couple of pounds to make pickled ginger. Here is the recipe as told to us by our friend Bob:
Peel the ginger
Cut the peeled ginger into thin slices
Put the slices in a pan and cover them with rice vinegar
Add a cup of sugar (we used organic Maui cane sugar)
Heat until the liquid boils
Simmer until the liquid is clear
Quick-cool the ginger and liquid by setting the pan in ice water
Pour the ginger and liquid into a container and refrigerate
We started eating the ginger right away, but it gets better with age. After sampling our results, Bob told us we didn’t cook it long enough as the liquid was not completely clear. We could just heat it a bit more, but we are enjoying eating it the way it is. We like the gingery flavored liquid quite a bit and made “ginger beer” by adding some of it to Perrier water.
Living in Hawaii, it seems like every week we find a new incredible healing food to add to our diet .