Sunday, 26 February 2012

Alzheimer's Disease, Ginger Tea, Medicinal Plants & Corfu Ginger Beer

A leading authority on the causes and prevention of Alzheimer’s eats ginger every day to prevent the possible onset of the disease, according to a report in The Vancouver Sun. Neurology professor Pat McGeer, from the University of British Columbia, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver that ginger can help prevent the protein plaque buildup in the brain which leads to the disease. McGeer, who is 84 and still active in Alzheimer's research, said that as pharmaceutical companies are nowhere near finding a cure, it is quite reasonable for people to look elsewhere such as in their own kitchens. He also said that as well as ginger you could try blackberries, rhubarb, cinnamon, turmeric (from the ginger family), cranberries, pomegranate and blueberries.

Salada Foods is the largest coffee processing company in Jamaica and has been in coffee for over half a century. Last October the company, in a major departure from its core activities, launched a ginger tea. This drink is made, quite naturally, from Jamaican ginger. But now, according to the Jamaica Observer, the company has encountered a slight problem. In order to meet export demand for the new ginger tea they obviously need ginger. But Jamaica is not producing enough to meet the company's requirements. So Salada has started working with farmers and the agriculture ministry to increase production.

There has always been a strong relationship between man and medicinal plants. Right from the start of civilization plants have been used as medicine by men and animals, probably by animals before men. These were the introductory sentences to a workshop last week called, unsurprisingly, Man and Medicinal Plants. Organised by the Department of Botany at Bharathiar University in Coimbatore in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the aim of the workshop was to provide an understanding of how medicinal plants can be of use to man and to identify research opportunities. Zee News reported Dr K Nirmal Babu, Principal Scientist at the prestigious Indian Institute of Spices Research, who stated that spices, such as ginger and its close relative turmeric, play an important role in curing diseases such as cancer and diabetes. The modern study of the medicinal properties of food is known by the term nutraceutical, a portmanteau of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical” coined in 1989 by Dr Stephen DeFelice.

There is small company in Columbus, Ohio, called Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams which has created a seasonal product called Influenza Sorbet. It contains bourbon, honey, lemon juice, ginger, cayenne pepper and orange juice.

Nigeria is a major ginger producer and exporter which seems to have cornered the market in dried-split ginger. Dried ginger can be offered whole but is usually in sliced or split form. The sliced version is easier for manufacturers to grind but tends to lose more flavour than the split version where the rhizomes are 'split' but not necessarily parted.

Ginger and other spices from the south-western Indian state of Kerala are very popular in many cities to the north. Until now these commodities have been transported by road with traders having to absorb or pass on the many costs incurred such as inter-state tax tariffs and road permits. The Indian Spices Board has now been offered a train service by Indian Railways to transport the spices and other products to cities such as Mumbai, Delhi and Jodhpur. The Business Standard also reported that the new train will be called "Kairali Queen" and will be faster and cheaper than by road.

Last week I learned all about the British occupation of the Greek island of Corfu. In 1809 the French ruled Corfu and the British had taken all of the other Ionian islands. Quite naturally the British wanted the complete set and made an unsuccessful attempt at invading Corfu. I don't really know what happened in between but in 1815 the Ionian Islands became a British protectorate known as the United States of the Ionian Islands with Corfu as the seat of the British Lord High Commissioner. The islands continued to be administered by the British until 1864 when they were handed over to Greece. So why am I telling you this? Well, the British have been in love with ginger for centuries and introduced ginger-based products to many parts of the world. They introduced ginger beer to Corfu and it became an instant hit. In fact, it has become so popular that many now regard it as Corfu's traditional refreshment drink. Known variously as "tsin tsin birra" and "tzitzibira", the drink is made with grated ginger, lemon juice, lemon oil, water and sugar.

It has been nearly a year since Sri Lanka embarked on a major initiative aimed at changing the way people lead their lives. In the past Sri Lanka was built around a network of self-sufficient villages where households produced much of their food requirements themselves and those with larger areas of land produced excess quantities to sell in town markets. This lifestyle changed following the arrival of first the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. The aims of this new initiative, known as Divi Neguma, include restoring self-sufficiency, food security, healthy diets and reducing malnutrition. The government has provided households and farmers with seeds and plants (including ginger) and assistance as part of the project. The report in the Daily News also stated that Sri Lanka's vegetable and fruit consumption is less than half that of a developed country.

An Australian woman was feeling ill last week so she went to the shop to buy some ginger ale and, presumably on impulse, a lottery ticket as well. She won over A$3.3million.

Brigadier Kasirye Gwanga is the Ugandan Presidential Advisor on Military Affairs. He is also a shrewd farmer as well, according to allAfrica. Gwanga benefited from the vanilla boom from the mid-1990s until the mid-2000s. Now that the boom is over he has diversified into ginger and believes that he will become the largest grower of the crop. He has noticed that ginger, which has been grown for many years in Uganda, has now become scarce and domestic demand has to be supplemented by imports from Kenya. It looks like he has spotted an opening there.

The Ugandan government has predicted that preserved ginger has a big future. This prediction has been backed by a plan to build a ginger processing plant. But there is one problem - an insufficient supply of locally grown ginger. I couldn't possibly suggest that the Ugandan government speak to Kasirye Gwanga because of the obvious conflict of interest. But surely there must be plenty of farmers who could also start ginger cultivation now that they no longer produce vanilla.

I've come across a number of unverifiable reports that there is more incentive for Indian farmers to grow ginger this coming season than turmeric.

I'm going to finish with something unpleasant. The Miami Herald featured Andrew Zimmern, a TV celebrity who eats unusual foods. The article described his visit to an uninhabited Samoan island where he ate grilled giant fruit bat seasoned with ginger juice. Personally, I would never have used ginger but if you haven't got any cranberry sauce to hand what are you supposed to do?

1 comment:

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