Ginger: It is all in the family

Ginger: A quick look at ginger and its cousins.

Those knobby little things in your grocers section are wonderful additions into your pantry - and are unfortunately most often misused. Here is a very brief, quick look at how they are related, and yet different, bringing their own personality to the dish.

Ginger and its cousins

Fresh Ginger: Zingiber officinale (bottom right corner)

This is the annoying sibling of the ginger family - sharp, pungent and spicy, but definately adds character to your dish and can enrich it tremendously.

Most commonly used as a fresh rhizome in Indian cooking. Added into the fresh spices tier, this needs a small degree of cooking to allow the flavors to season the cooking medium or else it tends to retain its sharp and pungent flavors.

Turmeric: Curcuma longa (top right corner)

This, is the mother of all ginger-and-cousins, because it leaves a lasting impression. It is extremely good for you, its inclusion does wonders to your health. However, your relationship to it, like all associations must be moderated to be most effective.

Fresh turmeric rhizomes are often seen in the market, and are used in making quick relishes and soups. This is also the source of the yellow powder and miracle drug. In its powdered form, it is most effective when cooked (not sprinkled, dusted over, or any other way). Too much will overpower the dish.

A decoction of turmeric in milk is an age old remedy to help with sore throats, and are overall healing after a sickness. Turmeric milk: Add a pinch into a cup of milk, boil it, remove from heat, strain into your cup, and sweeten with honey or sugar. Enjoy warm.

White Turmeric or Mango Turmeric: Curcuma zedoaria (top left corner)

I call this, the love-hate first cousin. A slightly hard to find ingredient, yet has a lot of mild characteristics - can be sharp and tart all at once.

A prized find in the markets, now available in specialty produce of the grocers. Ethnic markets will carry it, and conventional markets will carry it under the 'Melissa's Produce' brand.

Dried ginger: Zingiber officinale, dried (bottom left corner)

This, is the MIL of all gingers - sharp, pungent, and very important one uses it in strict moderation.

This is the same version of the fresh ginger. Store bought dried ginger often will have a coat of edible lime that keeps insects at bay. This lime must be scraped off before use. Grind small quantities into a powder using a powderful spice mill and use only dash in masala cha. This spice is very potent and must not be used in place of fresh ginger unless the recipe indicates an exception.


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Nandita Godbole

Once a botanist & landscape architect.

Now a personal chef & author, an artist, graphic designer, blogger & poet. 


Loves freshly brewed chai, the crisp salty ocean breeze, watching monsoon rains & walking barefoot through cold mountain streams. 


Believes in the strength, positivity of the human spirit. Is spiritual but not a fanatic. 


Mom of one. Two, if she counts her husband.