GINGER: USEFUL STEM RHIZOME VEGETABLE

DR.S.M.ALAM
Apr 20 - 26, 2009

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) or commonly known 'adrac' belongs to the family of "Zingiberaceae". Ginger is a horizontally thick underground stem (rhizome) covered by a delicate skin. It is considered as a native of south-east Asia and cultivated in Jamaican Islands and other tropical areas. It also grows well at an elevation of 1,500 meters from the sea level.

Green ginger, if dried in the sun, becomes 'saunth'.

It is valued not only for the aromatic flavor but is also acclaimed in ayurvedic, tibbe-e-unani, allopathic, aromapathic, and household remedies of our grannies in urban and rural areas. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were well aware of its stomachic benefits. The Chinese herbalists used it in medicines since more than 2,500 years ago.

It is not only consumed in Asia but also in Western Europe and Northern America, because of the Asian immigrants. Now, it is being produced and imported by these countries. It is traditionally produced and exported by India, Japan, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Jamaican Islands, Sierra-Loan, and Brazil. The Indian ginger has an edge in international market due to its color, standard of cleanliness, and quality. Pakistan's demand of ginger is met through imports due to inadequate domestic production.

Pakistan produces chilies, coriander, garlic, onion, and turmeric in commercial quantity but its ginger production is not enough to meet local requirements. Its large scale commercial cultivation is limited to just 10 districts in upper, middle, and lower Sindh. Ginger is propagated by its stem rhizome, cut into small pieces with one or two eye-buds on each piece which generates new shoots within 8-10 days after sowing.

It can also be sown in flatbeds and on ridges, and the seed of which should not be planted deep. Ginger grows in semi-tropical and temperate zones. High temperatures are desiccating and result in death of the seedlings. Ginger grows well in sandy clay and clayey loam soils with adequate organic matter for retention of moisture.

The climatic conditions especially in Sukkur, Mirpurkhas, and Dadu are most favorable for ginger cultivation which can be further exploited by providing technology and incentives to the growers.

Chemical composition: Water 81, Albuminoids 2.3, Oil 1.2, Carbohydrates 12.3, Crudefibre 2.4, Ash 1.2.

It also contains iron, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin C. The special aroma in ginger is due to the oil present in it and the hot taste due to the resin found in the oil. Pakistan imports ginger to meet its domestic demand as the majority of people prefer to season meat, pulses and vegetables with it.

Therapeutics usage: Despite the spiraling prices, it has various uses in everyday cooking. Dried stem figures in ayurvedic system of treatment for stomach disorders. It has been recommended to use 50gm of dry ginger in 100gm of pure honey to administer patients in loss of memory and backache.

In allopathic medicine, ginger is a stimulant, carminative, an expectorant, and promotes salivation. It provides relief in rheumatic pains, pulmonary, catarrhal, febrile diseases and neuralgia. Ginger relieves nausea, combats motion sickness, and reduces dizziness and flatulence.

In aromapathic, it boosts blood circulation, relieves tight-chest cough, tummy ache, tight muscles, stiffness and exhaustion. Massaging with ginger oil is a warming stimulant, astringent and antiseptic.

Ginger tea, with a spoonful of honey, is a household remedy in common cold, influenza and hoarseness of throat. Green ginger is used in salads and dried in preserves, 'achars', 'chaat', beverages, and confectionery. It is present in cakes, biscuits, and bread. Essential oil is used in ginger ale, beer, and wine.

Pakistan's demand is outstripped by its domestic production. The country has to undertake research to produce ginger at home to reduce the dependency on import. The domestic production and imports during the recent years show a consistent rise. The agro-climatic conditions in Sindh, where ginger is being successfully grown, need research to save millions of rupees spending on ginger's import.

Ginger grows in semi-tropical and temperate zones. High temperatures are desiccating and result in death of the seedlings. Ginger grows well in sandy clay and clayey loam soils with adequate organic matter for retention of moisture.