Thursday, December 8, 2016

Who and What is Ginger?  by Kathleen Lawless#GemsInAttic

Ginger itself has a  long history dating back more than 5,000 years and has been traded throughout history longer than most other spices.  It is a flowering plant whose rhizome or root is widely used as a spice and long-credited with medicinal properties.

Remember how our mothers used to give us ginger ale for the flu or tummy ache?  I'm not sure how much actual ginger Mr. Schweppes put into the pop, but since ginger had historically been credited for its benefits to stomach upsets and flu-like symptoms, they were on the right track.  It was more than just a soft drink treat when we were sick.

Today ginger, in all its forms; fresh, dried, liquid and ground is easily accessible and affordable, but in the 14th century its cost was equivalent to a livestock purchase.

Redheads are sometimes referred to as gingers, thanks to finger-flavored foods which show an auburn/red twinge.  For those of us who grew up watching Gilligan's Island it was pretty apparent, even on a black and white TV, that Ginger had red hair.

Edible gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century and became associated with Christmas.  Did the confection inspire the story of Hansel and Gretel or was it the other way around?  No one is clear.

What is clear is that ginger, be it flavoring bread, cookies, edible houses or spicing up dozens of culinary dishes, is synonymous with Christmas.  I love the smell of ginger-anything in the oven permeating the house over the holidays.  And since the grown-up children still come home for Christmas I find this gingerbread cookie recipe perfect.  I make it ahead, form it into logs which I refrigerate so I can slice off a few or a bunch of cookies to bake whenever I want.  The house smells great and the kids' tummies are happy.

Ready-When-You-Are Ginger Snaps
3/4 cup dark brown sugar packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup minced candied ginger (optional)
21/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsps. ground ginger
1 tsp each baking soda and cinnamon
1/4 tsp each ground nutmeg, cloves and salt.

Cream the sugar and butter, add the eggs one at a time and beat. Stir in almonds and candied ginger. add your combined dry ingredients and mix well.  Dough will be stiff.  Form into round logs about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap tightly in wax paper and plastic and refrigerate at least 12 hours.
Slice into 1/4 rounds and bake 350 10-12 minutes until lightly browned and crisped.  

What I would really like to know is how ginger morphed into 'gingerly'.  I don't see any connection at all to the heated spice, fiery redheads, or witches with edible houses.  Gingerly today means cautious and careful, apparently originating from the Latin word 'gentius' which means well-born. 
So no real connection to my favorite Christmas spice, as I lift my cookies gingerly from the oven and onto a rack to cool. 


  1. Love the trivia! The cookies sound yummy. I can't wait to try them! K Rung

  2. I love the post. I didn't even know about ginger-haired until a few years ago, and don't know WHY I didn't know.

  3. Great post. We make ginger tea for tummy upset. I think ginger in reference to people with red hair is because the flower of the ginger plant is red.


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