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Following the Spice Trail: Ginger

Posted: March 18, 2008

Ginger is one of the world’s most popular spices. Its usage is wide and varied, ranging from a culinary flavoring for both sweet and savory foods and beverages to a medicinal agent for numerous ailments. Here, Daemmon Reeve of Treatt plc examines the origins, cultivation and usage of this odd, knobby plant* and reviews its role as an essential oil for the flavor and fragrance industry.

Back to Its Roots

Ginger, Zingiber officinale, originates from southeastern Asia, notably southern China and India. In Roman times, dried powdered ginger was exported from India to Europe. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Arab merchants controlled the trade in ginger. And by the 13th and 14th centuries, along with black pepper, it was one of the most important spices for trading. At this time, in England, ginger was a sought after ingredient, with 1 lb in weight costing the equivalent to a sheep!

Today, ginger is grown throughout tropical and sub-tropical regions as it needs a humid climate with a heavy rainy season (minimum annual rainfall of 60 inches) and a hot dry season (temperatures of 90°F or over). China remains a key growing region. Jiangsu was a key province for ginger oil production 20 ago. However, this has now shifted to the Shandong and Anhui provinces where the land and climate are more suitable. This area is currently responsible for 90% of China’s ginger manufacture.

Growing Ginger