Ginger History

Marco Polo revived interest in ginger

ginger, fresh, hand, sliced, ground, spice, recipes, receipts
Fresh and Ground Ginger. © 2014 Joff Lee/Getty Images, licensed to, Inc.

Ginger History

Ginger's current name comes from the Middle English gingivere, but ginger dates back over 3,000 years to the Sanskrit srngaveram meaning "horn root" with reference to its appearance. In Greek it was ziggiberis, and in Latin, zinziberi.

Although it was well-known to the ancient Romans, ginger nearly disappeared in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Thanks to Marco Polo's trip to the Far East, ginger came back into favor in Europe, becoming not only a much-coveted spice, but also a very expensive one.

Queen Elizabeth I of England is credited with the invention of the gingerbread man, which became a popular Christmas treat.

Ginger (botanical name Zingiber officinale) is in the same family as turmeric and cardamom. It is native to Southern Asia and has long been a staple addition to Asian cuisines.

Ginger is quite popular in the Caribbean Islands, where it grows wild in lush tropical settings. Jamaican ginger is prized for its strong, perky flavor, and this island currently provides most of the world's supply, followed by India, Africa and China.

The gnarled, bumpy root of the ginger plant is the source of this wonderful spice. Although it is easily grown in tropical regions of the south, you will rarely be treated with blooms during cultivation at home the way it does normally in the wild. It can easily be grown in a flowerpot at home, but be sure to bring it indoors when the weather turns cool.

More About Ginger and Ginger Recipes

Ginger Selection and Storage
Ginger Forms
Homemade Crystallized (Candied) Ginger Recipe

• Ginger History
Ginger Recipes


Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean
Magic Spices
The Spice Lover's Guide to Herbs and Spices
The Flavor Bible