Ginger has been grown in tropical Asia since ancient times. The ancient use of ginger as a flavoring pre-dates historical records. Potted ginger plants were carried on local vessels travelling the maritime trade routes of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea in the 5th century AD and probably before.
In Asian cooking today, ginger is most prominently used in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean cooking. Found in everything from fish dishes, to stews, to being made into candy, ginger is believed to have many functional benefits in addition to adding a unique flavor to the food.
Ginger's aroma, texture, and flavor varies depending upon the timing of its harvest. Early-harvest or young ginger (harvested after six months) is tender and sweet, while older, more mature ginger (harvested between ten to twelve months) is more fibrous and spicy.
When buying ginger, look for ginger that is fresh (firm, unblemished skin and fresh, spicy fragrance). Like many spices, ginger's flavor fades as it cooks so add more fresh ginger at the end of cooking to add more flavor.
Ginger can be sliced into planks or matchsticks, chopped, grated, puréed, and minced, depending on its final destination. Just make sure to use good, fresh ginger and enjoy!