Sunday, 4 March 2012

Rainforest Ginger, US Baby Ginger, Ginger Wine Ban & Tongling Ginger

Ginger is grown in many parts of the world and most of you will be familiar with the major players such as India, China and Nigeria, and even some of the minor players like Jamaica and Australia. But I can't imagine that many of you will be familiar with ginger from the Amazon Rainforest. To be more precise, ginger from the Peruvian, Ecuadorian and Brazilian rainforests. Ginger thrives in the rainforest understory which provides the ideal growing conditions of being very hot and very damp.

Following the recent report of neurology professor Pat McGeer eating ginger every day to prevent the possible onset of Alzheimer's Disease (see last post), the Vancouver Sun blog has since reported that McGeer buys crystallised (candied) ginger and that he nibbles it whilst drinking coffee.

A ginger production workshop was held last Wednesday in Siler City, North Carolina. It was aimed at first-time growers considering ginger as a speciality crop. Ginger farming on the east coast of the USA seems to be gaining ground with crops already being cultivated in North Carolina, Virginia and Maine using polytunnels. Crops here are normally harvested when immature i.e. 'baby' ginger. Baby ginger has a mild flavour and is quite aromatic. The Washington Post last year described baby ginger as tickling your palate instead of assaulting it.

Interestingly, many ginger farms in the US are advised by East Branch Ginger, a supplier of ginger 'seed' from Pittsboro, North Carolina. The company also deal with two other members of the ginger family, turmeric and galangal. At the time of writing, East Branch Ginger has sold out of all its products for the 2012 season.

The price of ginger in Pakistan went up by five percent during February 2012 according to the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN). Although FAFEN was originally set up to monitor Pakistan's political process, it now reports on many other aspects of society.

Australia's reported the unusual news that cheap alcohol will be banned in Alice Springs for three days because an Australian rules football game will stretch police resources. What I think is unusual is that the ban applies to cask wine and fortified wines like port and green ginger wine. Here in the UK it is cheap supermarket lager that would be the problem.

And now this blog makes its first visit to Barbados, courtesy of The Barbados Advocate. It reported a speech given by Keeley Holder, an agriculture specialist and both founder and managing director of Produce Growers Limited, who has called for Barbados to expand its agriculture sector by identifying and then concentrating on niche export markets. She believes that niche markets can command premium prices. One possible market which has been identified is the interest from the United Kingdom for Barbadian ginger. Ginger has been grown in Barbados since the early English colonial days in the 1640s but its cultivation now needs to be expanded substantially as the country currently is a net importer of the crop.

A Fijian government blog reported that the government is encouraging more farmers in the Naitasiri province to move into ginger cultivation because of its high earnings potential. Reading between the lines in this blog and other sources, my understanding is that this year's ginger export commitments cannot be met by the predicted harvest. And to think that a year ago ginger farmers were struggling to find buyers for their crop. I hope that Fiji is just experiencing a temporary mismatch in the quantities growers can grow and exporters can sell.

In Fiji immature ginger is harvested from December to March and mature ginger is harvested from April to August.

In his continuing effort to expand ginger and other agricultural products, Roger Clarke, the Jamaican agriculture minister, has said that the government is prepared to allocate non-cash public assets if private companies supply the finance to invest in agriculture. Go-Jamaica reported that the non-cash assets would include land, buildings, human resources and support. Clarke's speech also mentioned that Jamaican ginger has been scientifically proven to be of a superior quality in terms of flavour and aroma. Jamaica should use this evidence to improve its current production level of only meeting ten percent of export orders.

The Gleaner from Jamaica had encouraging news stating that ginger production increased by 63 percent from 2008 to 2010. It also mentioned that cultivation acreage increased by 40 percent and the yield increased by 14 percent from 2.8 tonnes per hectare to 3.2 tonnes per hectare.

A few months ago I mentioned the story of how farmers in the Khotang district of Nepal were finding it difficult to either sell their ginger or diversify into ginger because of the lack of an adequate road network to send their produce to market. The Himalayan Times has now reported that farmers with access to a road network have been attracted to commercial ginger farming. It didn't say whether the farmers already had land close to a road or whether the farmers had moved closer to a road or, indeed, whether new roads have recently been built. But it does go to show that given a decent transport infrastructure businesses will flourish.

Another story last week from Khotang, this time in FN News Network. An enterprising farmer has gone one step further by adding value to his village's ginger output - he is converting it to juice. The ginger juice is selling well in the local market and providing an income for both the juice maker and the ginger farmers. Ginger juice is used in making ginger tea and also as an expectorant. If old ginger is used then the juice is potent enough to be used in spicy dishes. By the way, old ginger is ginger which is harvested after nine months.

A couple of statistics about Nepalese ginger. The first is that 60,000 families are involved in the ginger industry. The second is that 80% of ginger is exported to India. That's a lot of people dependent upon just one market.

I attempted last week to read a scientific research report called "Chemical Constituents and Their Bioactivities of 'Tongling White Ginger' (Zingiber officinale)" by the Kunming Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Tongling white ginger enjoys the accolade of being one of the finest gingers in China because of its thin white peel, tender flesh, rich juice and flavour. But apart from the essential oil, the chemical profile of this particular variety had not been examined in detail before. So a team conducted a study on an ethanol extract of the ginger and isolated 42 compounds of which four were previously unknown. If you want to read more about it be prepared to have to pay for full access to the research paper. I refused and probably found out more by a general Google search on "Tongling White Ginger".

Tongling, a city in southern Anhui Province, is known as the City of Eight Treasures. These treasures are, I believe, ginger, Paeonia ostii (a hardy shrub from the peony family), gold, silver, copper, iron, tin and garlic. Another source features hemp and sulphur instead of Paeonia ostii and garlic. As long as the list contains ginger, I'm happy.

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