Fresh gingerroot (or ginger) is the knobby underground stem of the tall, flowery tropical plant Zingiber officinale, and is known as a “hand” due to its resemblance to the human hand. With a fiery yet sweet flavor and notes of lemon and rosemary, some believe it has medicinal qualities such as the ability to soothe upset stomachs and boost energy.
Ginger is available in two forms – young and mature. Young ginger has a thin skin that requires no peeling, while mature ginger has a tough skin that must be peeled. It can be grated, ground, slivered or sliced and used in soups, curries, sauces, stir-fries, fruit compotes, gingerbread and gingersnaps.
Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel ginger. Once peeled, many gadgets are available to finely grate the bumpy, fibrous root. Running ginger along the finest holes of a 4-sided box grater or rubbing it along the 400 sharply ridged perforations of a Microplane® grater works well. A garlic press is perfect for pressing a small chunk into minced ginger.
To store unpeeled ginger, tightly wrap and refrigerate up to three weeks or freeze up to six months. To have ginger when you need it, cut peeled ginger into large chunks, place in an airtight container, cover with white wine, dry sherry or Madeira and refrigerate until ready to use. Not only will the fresh ginger keep up to three months, but the ginger-infused wine can be added as well to stir-fries, sauces and dressings.