Some words connote optimism, like little rays of linguistic sunshine.
In my world, ginger is one of them.
Ginger-mottled kittens and ginger snaps. And you can’t forget the feisty Ginger from Gilligan’s Island.
Ginger root brings me the most mental and medicinal bang for the buck when choosing fresh, healthful lifestyle accoutrements.Fresh, candied, pickled or in capsules, the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale is a medicine cabinet of well-being, readily available in markets worldwide. Ginger is feisty.
This wonder spice has time-tested digestion-friendly properties, in addition to its numerous other health benefits. In India, ginger is liberally used in daily life. Ginger-infused chai is a household favorite, and it’s grandma’s antidote of choice for battling cold and flu. Served on millions of dining tables across the subcontinent, you’ll see slivers of fresh ginger that have turned a soft pink from being soaked in lemon juice and salt: a zingy accompaniment to any cooked meal.
Ginger has been used in China for over 2,000 years to help digestion and treat diarrhea, nausea and stomach upsets. It's also been a key plant in Ayurvedic medicine, a system of traditional medicine native to the East. Over 2000 years ago, ginger was exported from India to the Roman Empire, where it became valued for its therapeutic as well as culinary properties. After the fall of the Roman Empire, ginger continued to be traded in Europe where its supply was controlled by Arab traders for hundreds of years. During medieval times it became a popular ingredient in sweets.
During the 13th and 14th centuries black pepper and ginger were among the most commonly traded spices. By the 16th century, one pound in weight of ginger in England would cost the equivalent of one sheep.
As Western civilization becomes more frustrated with hidden dangers in our food sources, particularly GMOs and other processed foods, folks are becoming more aware of the choices one can make in historically helpful natural foods. Grocers' shelves are suddenly crowded with fancy ginger ales sporting big, bold flavor, from Maine Root Ginger Brew to Reed's Extra Ginger Brew.
Ginger candy is experiencing a surge in sales, both in crystallized and mint form. Newman’s Own Organics Ginger Mints are a constant companion of mine.
Today, ginger is also used as a flavoring by the food and drink industry, as a spice and flavoring in cooking, and for fragrance in soaps and cosmetics.
Just think ginger ale for that upset stomach; ginger contains a chemical that is also used as an ingredient in antacid, laxative and anti-gas medications. (Though personally, I see ginger ale’s added sugar as inflammatory, perhaps counterintuitive to overall well-being.) Ginger is commonly used to treat various types of “stomach problems,” including motion sickness, morning sickness, colic, upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, nausea caused by cancer treatment, nausea and vomiting after surgery, as well as loss of appetite.
But ginger’s benefits are more far-reaching in both a preventive and medicinal manner. With its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger can bring relief for everything from sore joints to microcirculatory channels of the body. Float some ginger essential oil in your bath to help aching muscles and joints.
Other uses include pain relief from arthritis, menstrual pain, upper respiratory tract infections, cough and bronchitis. It's also sometimes used for chest pain, low back pain, and stomach pain.
Some people pour the fresh juice on their skin to treat burns. The oil made from ginger is sometimes applied directly to the skin to relieve pain.
To help clear those pesky sinuses that flare up from time to time, ginger tea works wonders. An especially strong brew can feel like temporary “wasabi nose,” and clears nasal channels instantly. Ginger is also thought to improve the absorption and assimilation of essential nutrients in the body
According to Cephas Gilbert of Cephas’ Jamaican Hot Shop in Ybor City, using fresh ginger root to make tea is most beneficial.
“As with most food sources, using something fresh and live is going to promote the most health and nutritional benefits,” Gilbert said. “Why waste your time with something that has been sitting in warehouses and store shelves for months?”
Gilbert knows. Drinking ginger root tea since childhood in his native Jamaica, Gilbert was introduced to this daily staple by his grandmother and mother, who made brewed it daily. Since opening his 4th Avenue restaurant over 33 years ago, ginger root tea has been a consistent staple and customer favorite.
Alain Del Rio, produce associate at organic market Rollin’ Oats in Tampa, has seen a significant increase in consumer consumption.
“Since around the first of the year, we have definitely seen an upswing in ginger and tumeric root,” Del Rio said. “We used to sell about a half a case a week and now we sell a full case, 20-30 pounds a week.” Del Rio is a daily devotee. “I juice every day with a half of a piece of ginger, a carrot and a bunch of spinach. It packs a world of good.”
Produce associates at Clearwater’s Nature’s Food Patch have also noticed a significant increase in ginger sales, and ginger uses are inquired about frequently by their patrons. Of the 11 fresh organic juices on their menu, five include ginger; their Gingerlicious Smoothie is a patron favorite.
Alexis Springer, mom to seven-year-old Julian, served him ginger tea the past several days to combat his upper respiratory/flu symptoms.
“I’ve been an advocate of ginger for a long time,” said Springer, a former health food store associate. “I’m glad Julian likes it and he seems to be getting better. One of nature’s gifts.”
Hey kids, do try this at home. Ginger Tea — Variations on a theme.
Raw ginger, sliced, amount to strength preference
3 quarts of water
Juice from 1/2 lime, or to taste
Honey, agave nectar or other sweetener (personal preference is stevia)
Variations or additions can include cinnamon sticks, green or any flavor of tea or fresh fruit slices (or whatever you imagine)
Peel the ginger and slice thinly to maximize the surface area. This will help you make a very flavorful ginger tea.
Boil the ginger in water for at least 10 minutes. For a stronger and more feisty tea, allow to boil for 20 minutes or more, and use more slices of ginger. You really can't overdo it, so feel free to add as much ginger and simmer it for as long as you want.
Remove from heat and add lime juice and honey, agave nectar or other sweetener to taste.
The secret to making a really flavorful ginger tea is to be generous with the ginger — more than you think you will need. Be creative, sip, savor, relax and repeat.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the use of herbs can interact with other herbs or medications. Therefore, it's important to talk to your doctor before taking ginger. You should not take ginger if you suffer from a bleeding disorder or take blood-thinning medications (such as Warfarin or aspirin). Side effects of consuming ginger are rare, but may include:
Those with celiac disease should also heed caution. Once again, consult your physician.
Ginger Tip of the Day: Avoid the "sprouting ginger counter garden" by freezing freshly-purchased ginger in air-tight bags or containers.
Honor Thy Earth. Earth Day,Tuesday, April 22.
Earth Day, founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, was first organized in 1970 to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in over 192 countries.
Eco-Fest 2014, held April 12 at Lowry Park, is one of the area’s largest celebrations. Organized by Learning Gate Community School, the City of Tampa and the University of South Florida Patel College of Global Sustainability, Eco-fest drew thousands to this year’s events.
Words of Wisdom from a really smart person.
“Healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have.”
― Winston Churchill
Great local harvest updates. Big Bear Farms in Plant City, established in 1990 as a conventional farm, the proprietors stopped using chemical pesticides by 1991. By 2004, all chemical fertilizers ceased. Big Bear Farms is a family-owned and operated certified organic fruit and vegetable farm. They operate under the strict rules of the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) and are certified by Quality Certification Services (QCS). You can sign up for their harvest updates or visit the farm. bigbearfarms.mysite.com
Also, www.localharvest.org offers regional signups for weekly updates on current harvests, farmer’s markets, family farms, CSAs, farm stands, and u-pick produce in your preferred area.
Sustainable Farming: Art for Advocacy Mon., April 21, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. A gallery show featuring local artists and visual arts students from Gibbs, Pinellas County Center for the Arts. All works were created specifically for the show, and so express in some way, the artist's understanding of sustainable farming. A percentage of all art purchased at the event will be donated to Sweetwater Organic Community Farm.
This exhibit will be held at Stetson University College of Law (1401 61st St. S, Gulfport, FL). Admission is free.
Free lecture: Natural Stress Relief Mon., April 21, 6:15 p.m. at Rollin' Oats Tampa location. Dr. Robert Linde — AP, RH, Doctor of Oriental Medicine — discusses secrets to stress relief using resources from the earth.
Got Moringa! Thurs., April 17th, 6:30 p.m. at Clearwater's Nature's Food Patch. Permaculturists of The Edible Garden Nursery will instruct on the multi-purpose benefits of the Moringa plant and why everyone should have this tree in their yard.
Free Cooking Class: The Whole Coconut Thurs., April 24, 6 :15 p.m. at Rollin' Oats Tampa location. Mindful Meals personal chef Emily Golden Drews will educate on use of coconut in whole food recipes.
Stay in the loop with area outdoor market updates. Tampa Bay Markets, Inc. and St. Pete District Markets, a collective of community farmers’ markets featuring locally grown foods, crafts and live music. Both are also on Facebook.
Granny’s Remedies: Keep those pearly whites even whiter with sage leaves and strawberries. Rubbed on one's teeth, it will help remove tartar and stains.
Documentary pick of the week: The Beautiful Truth is about a teen-aged Alaskan native determined to prove or dispel what Dr. Max Gerson wrote in his 1958 controversial book, A Cancer Therapy: Results of 50 Cases, following thirty years of clinical experimentation. After countless interviews with doctors, skeptics, cancer patients, and members of Gerson’s family, it became clear to 15-year-old Garrett Kroschel that a cure for virtually all cancers and chronic diseases does exist — and has existed for over 80 years. (Available on Amazon Prime and Netflix, it can also be viewed for free on topdocumentaryfilms.com.)
Just to be clear: I am not a healthcare professional, but a passionate advocate of natural health and voracious reader and lecture/seminar attendee. I just want to learn and share.
Let’s help keep each other in the know. If you have any suggestions, news events or feature ideas please email me at Integratethiskimberlydefalco@gmail.com.
The long wait is over.
St. Pete Brewing Co. opens today with its first five beers on tap in a cozy tasting room steps away from the brew house, where the sixth beer, an ESB, sits in a fermenter almost ready to go.
Long wooden oars crossed over a lighted anchor are mounted behind the bar, and a collection of photos on the pale yellow walls documents the run up to the opening of Tampa Bay’s newest craft brewery. Beers are listed on skateboards — an homage to the skate shop that once filled the space.
“I never thought I’d see this day come,” said head brewer/partner Jon McCracken during a soft opening Wednesday night. “Every roadblock — we’d get by one and three would come up. I don’t think it’s settled in yet that we’re finally open.’’
The brewery, St. Pete’s fifth, located at 544 First Ave. N. around the corner from Cycle Brewing and down First Ave. from Green Bench Brewing, has been highly anticipated by not only its fans but its neighbors, an art gallery and Italian restaurant that hope it will help draw folks from Central Avenue. The two signature beers the brewery has produced on a contract basis are now brewed in-house along with solid new styles McCracken has developed.
The Orange Wheat is already on tap for the first time at Tropicana Field. The first beers in the tasting room include the dry Grateful Stout — McCracken is a Deadhead — with balanced notes of coffee and chocolate. The Orange Wheat has a tad more orange flavor and aroma under McCracken’s new tweaked recipe. A pale ale, a blonde and a solid IPA (Northern Brewer and Chinook hops) round out the offerings.
Owner Tom Williams was smiling broadly that his brewery was finally opening. “We’re excited to see what will sell here,” he said, gesturing around the tasting room.
Check Facebook for details about St. Pete Brewing’s opening.