Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cinnamon, Ginger & Lemon, Oh My!

This trio of tree bark, root and citrus fruit is quite a combination. Separately they are used in various desserts and tangy chutneys. But medicine?

Yes! Herbalists around the world prize these plants and the medicines made from them for healing and soothing many an illness. This week we're looking at ginger--the tropical root of Zingiber officinale. I've used this particular herb for years as a pharmaceutical as well as including it in various delicious dishes. Ginger root is valuable for addressing colds and flu, as well as easing stomach gripes and pains, increasing blood flow throughout the body and relieving chills, reducing fever and stimulating the entire body.

In the last post I suggested making a tea with ginger root and also making a honey. To make a medicinal honey, you can take two approaches: the first uses fresh herbs and is, in my opinion, the stronger of the two methods. Be creative with your herb choices: lavender makes a superbly flavored honey, as does mint. Ginger can be chopped (flesh and skin) and honeyed for an enlivening addition to any pot of tea or even added to oatmeal, hot grains, and sweet and sour salad dressing.

Chop coarsely the herb(s) you wish to use in your honey. Place the ginger in a large stainless steel pan or bowl. Cover with honey; start with one cup honey to 2-4 tablespoons chopped ginger. Cover the pot or bowl and allow to sit overnight. Honey at room temperature is very thick and viscous, so in order to strain it, the honey must be gently heated. Place the pot on low heat only until the honey liquefies. Immediately strain the roots out and reserve the fresh-smelling, vibrant honey. Use up to one teaspoon of this glorious, zingy honey per cup of mint, lemon or other herbal tea, and enjoy!

The second method uses dried, and usually powdered, herbs. Simply purchase dried ginger and add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon dried ginger for each cup honey. Mix with a spoon and enjoy. Over time, the honey will thicken considerably but will still be lovely for teas and to spread on toast.

For ready-made tea, go here for Vineyard Herbs' signature line of teas, especially our Organic Ginger Lemon Tea. And be sure to purchase a few roots of ginger at the store to begin making your own teas, honeys, and--tomorrow--I'll show you how to make syrups.

Holly Bellebuono

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