Sunday, 31 July 2011

Clicquot Club, Ginger Wine & Aluminium Chloride Toxicity

"Every bottle of Clicquot Club Ginger Ale is generous measure - not the skimpy bottle you are accustomed to in buying ordinary ginger ales. We believe not only in giving honest goods, but in giving honest measure. There are two generous glassfuls in every bottle - enough for two persons, or two drinks for one person. Clicquot Club Ginger Ale is made of the purest confectioners' sugar, Jamaica ginger and citric fruit flavors the earth affords - and the purest and best water. Fresh, country air sweeps through the factory, and the blending and carbonating (done under the supervision of an expert chemist) is in surroundings as clean as a model housewife's kitchen. Clicquot Club is the kind of ginger ale you would make for yourself if you had our facilities". This piece of text is taken from a newspaper advertisement published in 1911, one of a range of adverts placed by Clicquot Club across North America. I was taken not only by its quaintness but also by its complete lack of dubious and unsubstantiated claims used by advertisers until relatively recently.

The Clicquot Club Company was founded in 1881 by Henry Millis in Millis, Massachusetts. The company initially sold sparkling cider but after a few years began to focus on ginger ale which remained popular for the next 70 or so years. The steadily increasing sales of Clicquot Club Ginger Ale, made from Jamaican ginger, coincided with a sharp increase in ginger exports from Jamaica. In fact, by the 1960s, Jamaica was the third largest producer of ginger in the world after India and Sierra Leone. In 1965 Canada Dry acquired Clicquot and closed it down. It was about this time that the Jamaican ginger industry started its rapid decline from which it is still trying to recover. Were these two events linked? Was the success of Jamaican ginger a direct result of the success of Clicquot? I think that it was more than just a coincidence.

There was good news last week for ginger growers in the Indian state of Mizoram. The state government has amended its liquor prohibition law to allow growers to convert their ginger crops into wine. The change also applies to grapes, apples, passion fruit, peaches and pears. The government has acknowledged that farmers can actually earn more from converting raw crops into wine. Presumably the government will also take more in taxation.

This week's "ginger in medicine" research project is an Egyptian study entitled Role of Ginger Against the Reproductive Toxicity of Aluminium Chloride in Albino Male Rats. The study involved feeding two groups of rats aluminium chloride (AlCl3) with one of these groups also receiving a daily dose of ginger. The outcome was that the ginger feed had an ameliorating effect on the AlCl3 toxicity. I don't know much about aluminium chloride but I do know that in one form it is irritating to the skin and in another form it is used in deodorants and antiperspirants. I have also discovered a report of another Egyptian study last year but that one used grape seed extract instead of ginger. Do the Egyptians have a particular problem with aluminium chloride?

I was quite pleased yesterday when my wife discovered a rhubarb and ginger cheese. I haven't tried it yet but when I do I will publish a review on

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Women Growing Ginger, Shell Ginger, Healthier Broilers & Laying Performance

Whilst researching the world of ginger I often come across aspects which I've never encountered or considered before. One such case is a report by the Canadian International Development Research Centre on growing ginger in the Sikkim and West Bengal states in India. In particular it focuses on the social and gendered nature of ginger production. It describes the differing approaches to growing ginger across the many ethnic groups and how these have changed over time. It also examines the difficulties faced by women who want to grow the crop. Although the report is now over five years old I'm sure that many of the issues raised then could still apply today. Have a look for yourself but beware, the report is quite long.

I've never really taken much notice of members of the ginger family other than the one we love to eat and drink (Zingiber officinale). But that was until last week when I discovered an American article about Shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet). This is another "ginger" which can be ingested although claims to its medicinal effectiveness have yet to be scientifically proven. Search the Internet for images of the plant and I think you'll find that it will look quite nice in the garden or as a large houseplant.

It is not only humans who can benefit from ginger. A report on the Effect of Aqueous Extract of Ginger (Zingiber officinale) on Blood Biochemistry Parameters of Broiler has just been published by researchers at the University of Tikrit in Iraq. The aim of the research was to determine whether the addition of aqueous ginger extract to the drinking water would have a beneficial effect on the blood biochemistry of the birds. The research was particularly interested with those factors which could increase the chance of a bird developing diabetes e.g. high cholesterol and blood glucose levels. The outcome, if I can spoil it for you now, was that the addition of aqueous ginger extract at a rate of between 0.4% and 0.6% beneficially reduced the blood glucose, LDL-cholesterol ("bad") and VLDL-cholesterol (could be "bad") levels whilst at the same time increasing the HDL-cholesterol ("good") level. Sounds like a win-win solution.

The result of another poultry and ginger experiment has just been published. Shandong Agricultural University in China and the Lethbridge Research Centre in Canada conducted research into the Effects of ginger root (Zingiber officinale) on laying performance and antioxidant status of laying hens and on dietary oxidation stability. The report in Poultry Science concluded that a diet supplemented with ginger powder improved laying performance and also the serum and egg yolk antioxidant properties. There is no end to the versatility of ginger!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ethiopian Report, Save Rachel's Ginger, Crop Insurance & Malaysian Ginger

I was surprised to read recently that ginger has been grown in Ethiopia since the 13th century. I was even more surprised to discover that after 800 years the Ethiopians aren't that good at it. In an effort to identify and rectify production problems, two Ethiopian academics have produced a report called Production, processing and marketing of ginger in Southern Ethiopia which concludes with a number of recommendations. These cover every aspect of the ginger production life cycle including the identification of suitable varieties, improving post-harvest techniques and developing ways to market.

My wife recently received a subscribed email from Rachel's Organic, a British company who make organic dairy products. They recently (February this year I think) introduced a Special Edition Greek Style Ginger yogurt which is now coming to the end of its planned life cycle. I shall let Rachel continue with this story. "Are you ready to say goodbye to our Special Edition Organic Greek Style Ginger Yogurt? We love this one a bit too much to let go just yet, so we’re giving you the chance to decide whether you would like it to stay. Let us know what you think by heading to our Facebook page." It's up to you and me now.

The Thaindian News reported last week that the state government of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India has launched a pilot scheme to provide insurance to farmers for a range of crops including ginger. The insurance will be available for the duration of the kharif (or rainy) season. Agriculture in India is a risky business as it is always at the mercy of the weather. Farmers can cope with a typical monsoon season but occasionally they will be hit by either too much rain or too little. It is what Sir Albert Howard (a British botanist, organic farming founder and Indian government agricultural adviser) called "a gamble in the monsoons" back in 1916. The scheme being provided is Rashtriya Krishi Bima Yojna, a safety net devised in 1998 to cover a wider range of crops and a larger group of farmers. The insurance scheme could become an important and integral part of farming as the state is highly dependent on agriculture.

My copy of The Daily Telegraph yesterday contained a feature supplement about the economic, agricultural and industrial sectors in Malaysia. It said that agriculture contributes 12 per cent of that country's GDP. Most of that contribution comes from palm oil, cocoa and rubber which, between them, generate significant export revenues. When I noticed that ginger was not mentioned anywhere I decided to add a little bit of information myself about the Malaysian ginger industry. Now, I accept that raw ginger is not a major export commodity; in fact, Malaysia has been known to import ginger from Australia. But my brief research shows that Malaysia appears to be concentrating on value-added ginger products, particularly ginger oil. And the production of ginger oil has been guided by research and development projects at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. These projects originally came under the control of the Chemical Engineering Pilot Plant (Cepp) but is now known as the Institute of Bioproduct Development.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Career Change, Make Your Own Drink & Illegal Farming

Last month I wrote about the ginger crop damage caused by wild boar in the Darjeeling region of India. These attacks have now become that widespread across the country that the state of Kerala is taking drastic action to protect its very important agricultural industry. The Hindu has reported that a one-year trial in five districts will start shortly which will allow wild boar to be shot by forest rangers. Guidelines to be issued this week will prevent indiscriminate killing by, for example, protecting mothers with suckling boars.

Here is an interesting report for anyone considering a career as a ginger farmer. Although the report is 13 years old, based on the Hawaiian ginger industry and with all costs in US dollars, I still think that there is enough useful information to set any aspiring farmer on the right track.

Back in April we wrote that the US Agency for International Development was giving Nepal $30m in aid to improve, amongst other things, ginger exports. Now The Himalayan Times has reported that the European Commission is planning to send 9m Euros to be used by the Nepal Trade Integration Strategy on a range of products including ginger. I wonder whether this latest aid programme means that we will see Nepalese ginger here in Europe?

Some states in southern India are currently in the grip of a cholera outbreak. One area in particular which has been hit badly is the Wayanad district of Kerala. This is a hilly area populated by a large number of indigenous tribes with a high dependence on agricultural work. With work hard to find, many tribesmen migrate temporarily to the neighbouring state of Karnataka. It is believed that it is these workers returning home from the ginger farms in Hassan and Courg who are carrying and spreading the disease. In an effort to combat the disease, the health authorities are placing whole tribes under surveillance. Let's hope that this is brought under control as soon as possible.

Have a look at this academic study into the development and characterisation of a carbonated ginger drink in Nigeria. You may find that you'll want to have a go at home.

Malaysian forestry officials are facing a serious problem as they attempt to manage the Kuala Langat South Peat Swamp Forest Reserve. More than 200 farmers have cleared 2,000ha and planted a range of crops including ginger. The Star, one of Malaya's largest circulation English-language newspapers, reported one forestry official claiming that some of the farmers are now ringgit millionaires. When farmers are evicted the officials plant saplings to re-populate the area. Amazingly, the farmers return, spray the saplings with poison and re-plant their crops. A major headache which I'm glad that I don't have.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Great British Beer Hunt, Adulterated Ginger & Ginger Joe

The finalists for the Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2011 competition have been announced. I mention this because one of the beers on the list is a ginger beer. Frederic’s Great British Ginger Beer from the Frederic Robinson Brewery in Stockport, Cheshire, was one of the winners in the North West England & The Midlands region. It will be listed with all of the other regional winners in Sainsbury's stores for three weeks in September. Based on sales figures and reviews, two beers from each region will go through to a grand final where the overall winner will be listed in 300 stores for at least six months. Many producers would die for the chance to be listed in just a dozen stores so this is a wonderful opportunity for the re-born British craft beer industry.

I don't know anything about Frederic’s Great British Ginger Beer apart from fact that it is produced by the same company which brews Ginger Tom, a springtime seasonal dark ale infused with bruised Chinese ginger root. The company must be hoping to make a name for itself in the world of ginger as it also produces the highly regarded Frederic Robinson Ginger Ale for Marks and Spencer.

The Taiwanese Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a consignment of ginger powder adulterated with the plasticiser DIBP was imported from Herbsoul Natural Products Limited, China in June 2008. The DOH has now introduced two measures to control the quality of imported plant products: the first is that all kinds of extracts from plants in powder and liquid form made in China will be required to gain Taiwanese FDA approval before importation, and the second is that all products from Herbsoul must have a test certificate from the Chinese authorities which meets FDA and customs approval.

Recently we tried Ginger Joe, a new alcoholic ginger beer from the makers of Stone’s Original Green Ginger Wine (see launch announcement). We found that it had a pleasant sweet aroma and a taste reminiscent of orange marmalade and ginger, with hints of caramel. Served chilled, it was a refreshing, fizzy drink with enough of a ginger bite to quench your thirst. However, we found that it was not quite as gingery as the label suggested and, for some of our tasters, the use of artificial sweeteners in addition to sugar made it a little too sweet. It has an ABV of 4% but the sweetness did mask the taste of the alcohol. Our overall verdict is that if you like a drink a bit on the sweet side, this is certainly worth a try.