Strausbaugh, Perry D. Formerly, Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Formerly, Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
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An important spice or condiment, and also the plant from which it is obtained, Zingiber officinale, of the family Zingiberaceae (order Zingiberales). The ginger plant is a native of southeastern Asia. It is an erect perennial herb and has thick, scaly, branched rhizomes (underground horizontal stems; see illustration), which contain starch, gums, an oleoresin (gingerin) that is responsible for the herb’s pungent taste, and an essential oil that imparts the aroma. The rhizomes, which are dug up after the aerial parts have withered, are treated in different ways to produce green ginger or dried ginger. Ginger is used in medicine, in culinary preparations (soups, curries, puddings, pickles, gingerbread, and cookies), and as a flavor in beverages such as ginger ale and ginger beer. Ginger oil is a thick, yellowish essential oil that is distilled from dried ginger. It is soluble in most organic solvents and insoluble in water, and its main components are citral, borneol, and phellandrene. It is used as flavoring in liqueurs and soft drinks. Ginger is grown in India, China, Japan, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Nigeria, Jamaica, and Queensland (Australia). See also: Essential oils; Spice and flavoring; Zingiberales
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