Ten years ago when I was expecting my second child, I was going through a terrible phase of morning sickness. My neighbor Karen gave me candied ginger to overcome my sickness. I overcame my morning sickness, but have yet to overcome my love for ginger.

As a child I would snub at the ginger fudge, Alepak, my grandmother made. She would cajole us to have a little piece everyday. Being a doctor herself, She recognized the benefits of this “maha aushadhi” (great medicine). Ginger is said to have a calming effect on the digestive system and a stimulating effect on the circulatory system. It may be added to any recipe to alleviate nausea, stomach cramps, menstrual pain, chills, and colds. Ginger is one of the best natural remedies for travel sickness.

Ginger has a warm aroma, with a hint of turmeric. It tastes hot and increases the fieriness of any food. It is a quintessential ingredient in chutneys, meat, and vegetable curries.

Dried ginger, also known as sonth, is used extensively in cooking.

Ginger is the underground stem or rhizome with long thin stalks and leaves. The plant grows to a height of 3 feet and bears cone-like yellowish green flowers streaked with purple. The rhizomes are dug out when the leaves dry out.

The rhizome is harvested when it is more mature and fibrous if it is to be dried. It is often powdered before adding to any dish. In the monsoon season when colds and coughs were omnipresent, my mother would make a special milkshake for our family. The milk would be boiled with a spoonful of sonth, quarter spoon of turmeric and some crystal sugar. She claimed it was the perfect tonic against cold and cough.

When buying ginger, look for firm and plump rhizomes. Avoid those with wrinkled skin or mildew. A knob should snap easily if it is fresh. My mother had a very interesting way of storing ginger. She would plant it in a small pot on the kitchen windowsill. If you plan to store it this way, remember that the soil should be very sandy and it should be watered very infrequently. Whenever a recipe called for ginger, my mother would cut off a small piece as required and put the rest back in the soil. Thus it stayed fresh and also sprouted new knobs.

Here is a recipe of a salad, which is loaded with nutrients and delicately spiked with ginger dressing.

PAUSHTIK SALAD

2 cups finely shredded cabbage

2 cups finely shredded carrots

½ cup finely chopped bell pepper

½ cup finely chopped cauliflower

1 cup sprouts

½ cup finely shredded raw beets

1 tablespoon fresh or dried coconut

2 tablespoons washed and finely

chopped cilantro

½ cup spinach

Ginger dressing:

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon salt (or as needed)

1 teaspoon sugar

In a big bowl add all vegetables except beets. Make a dressing with ginger, lime juice, salt, and sugar. Just before serving, add the dressing and mix well. Finally add chopped beets and mix gently. The red color of beets will bleed if you add before serving.

This salad adds a vibrant color to any meal or party!

Hema’s Hints:

1. For variation to the dressing you can substitute 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice for limejuice.

2. With the exception of potato and tomato, you can mix and match or omit any vegetables in this salad.

FIERY GINGER PICKLE

1 cup of ginger strips

8-10 green chilies

3 limes

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Salt as per taste

Peel the ginger and cut ginger into thin long strips. Mince green chilies.

Add the juice of 3 limes and salt and sugar to the ginger strips and minced chilies. Mix well and the pickle is ready to enjoy the same day.

Hema’s Hints: Mix ¼ teaspoon of this pickle with 1 tablespoon of plain cream cheese. A zesty spread for your toasted bagel!

Hema Kundargi is the producer, editor, and host of a television show “Indian Vegetarian Gourmet.”

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