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Ginger the Miracle Herb
By Kurma Dasa

Fresh gingerGinger is a very important and versatile culinary spice
of wide acclaim, but did you know that it is also an extremely powerful healing herb? Ginger is the most popular of hundreds of members of the Zingiberacea family. To be botanically correct, ginger is a rhizome and not a root. It is available in many varieties, from mild to spicy, and requires tropical conditions and fertile soil for optimum growth.

Over millenia, millions of people have enjoyed the benefits of ginger. For spiritual upliftment, digestive comfort and strength, stimulation and relief from infirmity, ginger has been heralded as the herb of choice, and has been included in most traditional Eastern formulas. Ginger is aptly described in the traditional language of Sanskrit as “vishwabhesaj”, the universal medicine.

Ginger has been used historically for wound healing, as an analgesic, anti-arthritic, anti-ulcer, as a stimulant, as well as a powerful treatment for a variety of respiratory, reproductive, and digestive complaints. Ginger also shows great therapeutic potential in the treatment of arthritis and cardiovascular disorders, and as a probiotic support.

The anti-nausea effect of ginger is well documented. Although I didn’t know it at the time, ginger was one of the main ingredients in the carsickness medicine I occasionally took as a young lad.

My first culinary experience of ginger was in 1974 in steamy West Bengal, while visiting the holy city of Sridham Mayapur. On the first morning, about one hundred others and I sat side by side, cross-legged and expectant, along the cool marble-tiled verandahs of the Chandrodaya Temple. Cool breezes wafted in from the serpentine Mother Ganges that slithered majestically through nearby rice fields This was to be our first meal in India – a multi-course breakfast feast, in fact.

While memories of the exact menu have faded, I distinctly recall the elegant yet simple entree – buttery chickpeas, served with wafer-thin slices of tender young ginger with paper-thin pinkish skin and greenish-ivory flesh, drenched in fresh lime juice and sprinkled with salt. It was a sublime and tantalising experience that the subsequent quarter century of eating experiences has not erased.

Ginger still remains one of my well-loved kitchen favourites. I relish its spicy, sweet aroma, its invigoratingly clean, hot sharp taste, its digestive properties, and its cleansing effect on the body.

I’ll leave you with a delightful recipe for fresh ginger chutney by Yamuna Devi, from her wonderful book 'Yamuna's Table'

Fresh Ginger Chutney

This is great as a refreshing accompaniment to virtually any savoury.

Preparation time: about 10 minutes
Makes about 1½ cups

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
¾ cup peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
½ cup diced dried papaya (or any dried fruit of your choice)
½ cup fresh or dried grated coconut
1½ teaspoons salt

Place the lime juice and half the orange juice in a blender or food processor.

Add all the remaining ingredients, and process for about 1 minute.

Uncover and scrape down the sides of the container, then add the remaining orange juice, and reduce the ingredients to a smooth puree.

Transfer to a ceramic or stainless steel bowl, and cover until ready to serve.

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