Sunday, 29 April 2012

Ginger Cockney, Sri Lankan Initiative & Slight Discomfort

You may or may not have noticed that the All Things Ginger website is unavailable at the moment. We are in the midst of changing our hosting ISP and ooh, are we having fun. Normal service will resume as soon as possible.

The Asian Tribune carried a story last week about a major ginger cultivation initiative in Northern Province in Sri Lanka. The local governing body, the Northern Provincial Council, has identified ginger as a potentially important export commodity and has engaged the services of GIZ, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Agency for International Cooperation). GIZ and its predecessors have supported a bilateral development co-operation programme between Sri Lanka and Germany for over 40 years. This latest initiative will be operated and financed by GIZ.

The Sri Lankan ginger initiative is an interesting development as ginger is traditionally grown in the centre of the country in Central Province. This region provides the ginger for Sri Lanka's internationally famous Elephant Ginger Beer.

Ginger Cockney, from the Quantock Brewery, has won Bronze in the Speciality Beers section of the SIBA Southwest Beer Competition. This new beer has been brewed with three malt and two hop varieties, and fresh root ginger. Apparently, it has been developed to appeal to both the male and female markets.

The King's Ginger, a ginger liqueur from Berry Bros & Rudd, has officially launched in Australia at an Edwardian-styled event. reported that the Sydney International Shooting Centre played host to a gathering of men in tweed waistcoats and homburg hats, and some 'well spirited' ladies.

I was suffering from a slight bout of stomach discomfort the other day. My wife prepared a glass of Rochester Ginger drink mixed with warm water and a spoonful of honey, and within ten minutes I was back to normal again. Good stuff, this ginger!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Carbon Sink, Cowpea Pest, Minimally Processed Foods & Cheap Ginger

Halewood International, maker of the famous Crabbie’s ginger beer range, is the top food & drink firm in The Sunday Times top 100 list of British private companies with the fastest growing profits. The company came in at number 41 after reporting a 70.8% increase in annual profit growth, according to Food Manufacture. The article also mentioned that the Halewood range, including Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer, is sold in 40 countries.

The Sri Lanka Ministry of Agriculture will launch a project to increase the production of a number of crops including ginger. Although the article in the Daily News mentioned that the government will provide seeds and fertilisers, it did not reveal why the project is being undertaken. It must be the next step in the initiative announced last year to make the country self-sufficient. Today's Sunday Observer reports a call from a government scientist that both Sri Lanka and Pakistan should co-operate in agricultural research to improve farmers' incomes.

The week before last, Bermuda's Royal Gazette reported that John Barritt, a well-known Bermudan drinks company, had run out of ginger beer (see last week's post). The same source has now followed that story by reporting that Gosling, an equally well-known local drinks company, would like Bermudans to know that it did not run out of ginger beer over the same period. I wonder how much rivalry there is between these two businesses?

Interestingly, The Royal Gazette has now reported that Bermuda is also suffering from a shortage of the popular Carlsberg Elephant beer following shipping delays from Denmark.

The producer of Bundaberg Ginger Beer has announced a unique carbon offset project with CO2 Group, perth now reports. Bundaberg Brewed Drinks is collaborating with Australia's largest provider of carbon sink plantings by establishing an area of eucalypt species. 'Carbon sinks' are forests which are designed to capture and store carbon.

Bad news last week for ginger farmers in Nepal, The Kathmandu Post has reported. With ginger prices in India falling, traders have just not bothered to visit Nepalese villages. Farmers are now having to dispose of large quantities of ginger at low prices. When you consider that most Nepalese ginger is exported to India, the immediate future doesn't look to good. A vicious circle, really.

I may need a bit of help with this one. The Ghanian media, including the Ghana News Agency, are reporting that the government's Food and Drugs Board has destroyed large quantities of unsafe products in the Ashanti region including Butubutu Barimansuro Ginger Gin fruit juice. What is this ginger drink and why was it destroyed?

A new recipe book was published recently which may be worth a peruse. Lemongrass and Ginger - Vibrant Asian Recipes contains dishes from many ginger-growing countries in the region so I'm guessing that there is at least a smattering of ginger recipes. As you can tell, I've haven't actually seen the book but I will keep my eye open for it in my local high street bookseller.

A report in dti news indicates that Vietnam is unable to produce enough ginger to meet domestic demand. But it appears that increasing production will not solve the problem. The current shortfall is being filled by produce from China and these imports are a third cheaper than domestic ginger.

African Journals Online (AJOL) introduced me to a fascinating potential use for ginger. Cowpeas are an important food legume crop in Africa, Asia, southern Europe and Central and South America. Unfortunately, harvested cowpeas can be difficult to store as they are susceptible to infestation by a particular type of beetle. Callosobruchus maculatus, also known as the bruchid beetle or the cowpea weevil, is such a pest that the Gates Foundation has estimated that up to 50 percent of harvested cowpeas are lost each year in Africa to infestation. The research in AJOL investigated the potential benefits of using certain botanical materials on the beetle. The materials considered were powdered ginger, garlic and bitter leaf. It seems that the efficacy of these materials depends on the variety of cowpea being tested.

The Malaysian government's Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority is about to launch its Save On Kitchen Expenses programme. This initiative, according to the New Straits Times, will see 15 grocery items, including ginger, sold at up to 30 percent off when purchased at farmers' markets.

Three weeks ago I relayed a request for help in locating a branded ginger beer bottle, an important family history object. The Lancashire Evening Post has now reported that the search is over. A beer bottle and a flagon have been located.

The Pakistan Agriculture blog last week posted an article on the use of ginger oil as an anti-microbial agent and its use in Minimally Processed Foods (MPF). The public are increasingly demanding more natural foods and MDFs are a way of satisfying this demand but the lack of an acceptable shelf life is a major concern. The ginger oil has been shown to be effective in controlling micro-organisms in certain food products with the potential for wider use.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Hairy Bikers, No Ginger Beer, Assam Ginger & American Kombucha

I've been watching The Hairy Bikers' Bakeation series on BBC2 each Tuesday. If you are not familiar with this wonderful programme, Simon King and Dave Myers are spending four months riding 5000 miles on their motorbikes across Europe introducing us to the best of traditional baking, both savoury and sweet. I knew that I was going to enjoy last week's episode in particular as the bikers were scheduled to stop off in Austria, my favourite country and one I love to visit. I wasn't disappointed. One place they stopped was the village of Seckau in the state of Styria. Here, they introduced us to Cafe Konditorei Regner, a family bakery since 1660, and their speciality gingerbread (or 'lebkuchen'). The gingerbread recipe was developed by the current owner and it was demonstrated on the programme by his son, Gregor, who, incidentally, won a gold medal at the International Baking Competition in Calgary, Canada, in 2009. You can see the Gregor Regner part of the programme on YouTube.

There was a most unusual story in Bermuda's The Royal Gazette last week. One of the country's leading soft drinks manufacturers, John Barritt & Son, famous for its Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer, actually ran out of the ginger beer for the best part of a month according to other sources. How did this happen? Barritt's ginger beer is made in Florida from a Jamaican and African ginger concentrate produced in Milton Keynes in the UK. The concentrate is shipped to the US as one of many goods in a container. A recent shipment was delayed by US Customs when a container was impounded whilst other goods were investigated by officials. Up until the end of 2010 the ginger beer was bottled in Bermuda which I assume means that the concentrate was shipped direct.

Green Bee Soda is beverage company from Maine, USA, with a unique selling proposition of making a range of sodas based on wildflower honey. The company made an announcement last week about the launch of a new flavour called Ginger Buzz. This drink contains freshly chopped ginger, coriander and the essential wildflower honey. Let me know what it's like if you are able to try it.

Organic farming is set to be the future according to the Assam state government in India. The Indian Express reported that the state goverment will allocate funding to encourage young people to take up farming and discourage existing farmers from using using chemicals. The range of eligible crops includes ginger and turmeric. The article also stated that Assam is one of India's major producers of ginger. I have read elsewhere that the state produces more than 70 percent of the country's ginger, some of it already organic. Interestingly, nearly 25 percent of Assam's farmland is already organic by virtue of the fact that there has been a shortage of chemical fertilisers.

Karbi Anglong is the largest of the 27 administrative districts in Assam. Four years ago, district officials applied to have Geographical Indication status for locally grown ginger. I don't know whether the status was ever granted but if it was then it confers an element of protection and exclusivity to what many people describe as a distinctive ginger. GIN-FED, the Ginger Growers Co-Operative Marketing Federation in Karbi Anglong, describes the local produce as the world's finest organic ginger. Traditionally, many of the ginger farmers in the district are women.

The Singhasan Hills in Karbi Anglong are said to produce the finest ginger in all India. But this area was the scene nearly ten years ago of an outbreak of violence between the Kuki and Karbi tribal communities over the Kuki production of ginger in the hills.

Last month I reported the story from The Gympie Times regarding the imminent sale of a family dairy farm and the switch to ginger farming. Well, according to The Gympie Times last week, the sell-off was completed successfully. But the latest story mentioned a detail of which I wasn't aware previously. The family already grow ginger on 10 acres of land and produce certified ginger 'seed' for Buderim Ginger.

So, whilst an Australian farmer is hoping to make a living from ginger seed, producers of ginger seed in one particular district of the Indian state of Karnataka are witnessing a dramatic fall in price. The Deccan Herald has reported that with fewer farmers wishing to grow ginger, the price of seed has plummeted from Rs 1,700 per bag to Rs 280. In fact, seed farmers may not even cover the cost of fertilisers and pesticides. It appears that it will be cheaper for the farmers to leave the ginger in the ground.

My understanding of the Indian ginger industry is that ginger is grown in areas which are isolated from and independent of each other. For example, the plight of a small part of the local ginger industry in Karnataka may be completely different to the state of the local ginger industry in Assam or Kerala. Difficulties in one area are not necessarily reflected elsewhere. There are too many factors involved such as variety, terroir, climate and export potential to name but a few.

The Maine Sunday Telegram carried a story about a relatively new start-up business in Portland, Maine. Urban Farm Fermentory (UFF) has introduced a range of alcoholic beverages called Urban Farm Fermentory Kombucha Culture which includes a ginger flavour. Kombucha is made from fermented green and black tea, and sugar. Interestingly, UFF is hoping to use local farmers to grow ginger in hothouses. These new drinks contain less than one percent alcohol.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Ginger Volunteers, Baby Ginger, New Drinks, Agroforestry & Meat Proteins

We'll start this week by visiting Taiwan and a pleasing story in Focus Taiwan. This season has seen a glut of ginger on the east coast of the country which has resulted in a drop in price. Farmers, although skilled in producing the ginger, have been struggling in their attempts to sell the harvest. But help has appeared in the form of Star Liu, a university student, and his friend, Terry Kuo. They have been buying ginger from farmers in their home area and selling it for a considerably higher price in the capital, Taipei. They have also engaged in adding value by selling hot ginger tea on the streets of Taipei on cold winter days. This philanthropic act has been so well received that people from Japan and Singapore have also volunteered to help.

The Rodale Institute, a leading US organic agriculture research centre, recommends that farmers produce baby ginger as an unusual way of attracting customers. Baby, or immature, ginger is proving popular in the US for its aroma and mild flavour. Although it is normally grown in the ideal surroundings of Hawaii, it is also being grown as a niche crop undercover by farmers in seemingly unsuitable locations such as Virginia and Pennsylvania. What makes it attractive to US growers is its relatively short shelf life. Baby ginger, harvested after four to six months instead of the usual eight to nine months, can only be stored at room temperature for two to three weeks which rules out shipments (and therefore competition) from overseas.

The American Farm Bureau Federation website, The Voice of Agriculture, contains a fascinating video about farmers in Virginia growing ginger in high tunnels. You may find that the video takes a little while to load but it's worth the wait.

The Fiji Times featured a local farmer who started growing ginger in the early days, gave it up in favour of different crops and has now returned to ginger once again. The story is interesting in itself but when I read that he had been nominated as chairman of the Ginger Council I immediately thought, "what is the Ginger Council?". Well, it was created by an Act of Parliament, the Ginger Council Of Fiji Act, 1996 (this is an RTF file which will require something like Word of Word Viewer). I am not sure but I assume that this body replaced the Ginger Growers Council of Fiji which was established in 1993. Anyway, the principal functions of the Ginger Council are to self-regulate the industry, to produce ginger as cost-effectively as possible and to identify potential export markets.

The Kathmandu Post reported that a Nepalese national level trade association called the Nepal Ginger Producers and Traders Association has been formed with the support of the United States Agency for International Development to promote the interests of ginger farmers. It is envisaged that this new association will also seek to satisfy domestic demand and create new export markets. Currently, India is the destination for around 99 percent of ginger exports. Nepal produces 210,000 tonnes of ginger a year of which 140,000 tonnes are exported. The district of Ilam (the country is divided into 75 districts) is responsible for 65 percent of total production.

It has been a busy week of announcements in the UK for ginger drinks. Blavod Wines and Spirits is launching Red Leg, a premium Caribbean rum spiced with ginger and vanilla. Swedish cider maker Rekorderlig is to launch an orange and ginger cider. And finally, Stone’s Ginger Joe alcoholic ginger beer has secured listings with the Yates’s pub chain and Carlsberg UK, a leading on-trade wholesaler.

Away from the UK, Carlsberg Denmark has launched Somersby Ginger Lemon alcoholic cider (4.5% abv) but only, I believe, for the Danish market initially. In the US, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale now includes passion fruit in its range of unfiltered ginger ales. This new drink also includes a touch of turmeric.

Brewbound, an excellent US site for beer news, reported on the nationwide rollout of three cider varietals from the Angry Orchard Cider Company. One of these drinks is Apple Ginger (5.0% abv) which is a blend of Italian and French apples with fresh Nigerian ginger. Sounds nice.

I am being followed on Twitter by a couple of diabetes organisations - Diabetes UK and The Diabetes Care. I've noticed the occasional reference to ginger and diabetes but I've never really checked to see whether ginger may be beneficial to sufferers or not. So I had a browse and found this interesting Kuwaiti research paper called 'Anti-diabetic and hypolipidaemic properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale) in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats' from 2006. I won't spoil the read for you (assuming that you find a link for this paper as the Cambridge URL which I'm using keeps changing) but I will say that the outcome is promising. The report concludes by stating that "ginger may be of great value in managing the effects of diabetic complications in human subjects".

In the past, farmers in the Padma floodplain of Bangladesh practised a traditional system of agriculture. This gradually became unsustainable following the rapid increase in population growth. So in the 1990s, scientists recommended that the farmers adopt the mango-based agroforestry system. This system works by planting a few mango trees in and around the selected food crop. This food crop could be ginger or turmeric or one of many other essential commodities. The Center for International Forestry Research blog has just reported the findings of a research paper in the Small-scale Forestry journal on the effectiveness of mango-based agroforestry systems. The research found that a mango-based cropping system coupled with, for example, ginger is more productive than growing ginger on its own. The farmers now have two crops to harvest which means two crops to sell. This increases income and provides income security. The extra money can then be spent on education, housing, sanitation and health needs. Although mango trees can fruit for decades, after a certain stage the fruit yield drops. The trees can then be felled and the wood used for fuel or making furniture.

I also came across what the Indians believe is an under-exploited crop called mango ginger. Surprisingly, it is not related to either mango or ginger but to turmeric. It is popular in Indian pickles.

The Philippine Information Agency reported an interview with the mayor of Pinabacdao, a municipality in the province of Samar, Philippines. He stated that ginger farmers in the hills of Pinabacdao may just be able to rise out of poverty following increased domestic interest in ginger's health benefits and a deal with a Japanese bilk buyer. The mayor will back up his claim by investing public money in farming equipment to ensure that his municipality produces the best ginger in the region.

Just out of interest I checked Wikipedia to find out what a municipality is and discovered that it is a local government unit equivalent to a town. These municipalities are divided into classes based on average annual income during the last three calendar years. The classes range from 1st at the top to 6th at the bottom. Pinabacdao is ranked as 3rd class.

A number of websites, including, have reported recently on the latest developments in the Red Meat Combifoods research programme in New Zealand. The purpose of this programme is to find ways that meat proteins can be isolated and then used in other foods. One such resulting food is thyme and ginger-flavoured ice cream. Make up your own mind.

BBC News told us about the food enjoyed by Captain Scott and his team during the expedition to the South Pole a century ago. On special occasions they had crystallised ginger.

Aggie Research reports on a forthcoming paper from North Carolina Central University and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. The paper, to be presented this coming week, will show that "ginger extract and its purified component increase red blood cell production (erythropoiesis) in transgenic zebrafish recovering from anaemia, as well as in normal non-anaemic zebrafish". The scientists also discovered that "ginger and its purified component stimulate a signaling pathway that encourages blood stem-cell formation".

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Ginger Cider, April Fool, New Launches & Reducing Waste

Next month Alnwick, in north Northumberland, will play host to a cider and chilli festival, according to the Northumberland Gazette. One of the features of this event, organised by both the Alnwick Food Festival and the Alnwick Beer Festival, will be the unveiling of a collaborative effort from Thistly Cross and Belhaven Fruit Farm called Ginger and Chilli Cider. Both Thistly Cross and Belhaven Fruit Farm use locally grown produce where possible. Both businesses are based in Dunbar which is officially the sunniest place in Scotland (but not warm enough for growing ginger). I didn't realise until now that Thistly Cross already produces an alcoholic ginger infused cider. If you can get to the festival on May the 4th and 5th let me know what you think of this intriguing new drink.

If you are a student of British political history you may already know this. It is 1855 and Lord Palmerston, at the age of 70, has become British Prime Minister for the first time. Following the formation of his government, Benjamin Disraeli, a political foe, wrote to a friend that 'Palmerston is really an impostor, utterly exhausted, and at the best only ginger-beer, and not champagne, and now an old painted Pantaloon, very deaf, very blind, and with false teeth, which would fall out of his mouth when speaking, if he did not hesitate so in his talk'. They really did have a way with words back then.

Last Friday the 2012 budget was presented to the Guyanese parliament. It wasn't something I was waiting for in particular but my attention was drawn to a comment made by the finance minister, Dr Ashni Singh, regarding last year's successful introduction of a spice project. This project was introduced to promote diversity in hinterland communities by growing crops like ginger and turmeric. A Guyana Office for Investment aim is to become the breadbasket of the Caribbean whilst at the same time increasing exports to North America and Europe. The latest available UN Comtrade figures show that in 2010 Guyana was a net exporter of ginger with the Caribbean being the principal destination.

Today, as we all know, is April Fool's Day and it can be quite interesting and, at times, frustrating trying to find the obligatory spoof or silly story in the newspapers. Having found the story in my newspaper today I had a look at past stories and found a particularly relevant one in the Daily Express from 2006. "Scientists yesterday revealed that broken biscuits are in fact the perfect material to help resurface roads,” the Express informed us. “Years of experimental research revealed that crushed-up ginger nuts are the best biscuit for a road’s sub-base, as they are more porous and allow water to drain away.” The story was accompanied by a picture showing serried rows of gingernut biscuits being steamrollered into the tarmac. I love these stories.

The Jamaica Information Service reported on a scheme which is proving to be financially beneficial to many farmers. The Jamaica Exotic Flavours and Essences Company, in conjunction with the Jamaican government, will buy any produce which has been rejected by customers for being too small or unattractive and convert it into purees, flavours, essences and juices for the food and beverage industry. This scheme applies to a wide range of crops including ginger. It's difficult to imagine ginger being rejected for being unattractive. This is a scheme which can and should be adopted by many other countries.

Back in February I posted that Kumbalangi in the Indian state of Kerala would be the first flat coastal location to grow ginger, a crop normally associated with hill farming. IBNLive has now reported that the project officially started yesterday.

A new report on the spices and seasonings market states that the Asia-Pacific spice market will grow by 5.6% over the next five years, according to If you couple this with the increasing world demand for spices, driven by a growing awareness of the health benefits and a fascination for ethnic cuisine, then the outlook for farmers in countries such as India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Sri Lanka appears to be very positive indeed.

The Financial Express informs us that the eastern Indian state of Orissa has decided to identify horticultural crop clusters and then use these areas to develop a streamlined marketing infrastructure. Ginger clusters can now be found in the Phulbani and Koraput districts. The state is said to have perfect rainfall conditions for growing ginger, so good that it has now become self-sufficient in the crop.

Fentimans has launched a cool & less fiery version of its traditional ginger beer. The new drink is called, unsurprisingly, Cool Ginger Beer and will be available in the familiar 275ml bottles. It has been botanically brewed in the usual way with Chinese ginger.

Startup company Berry White launched a range of white tea-based organic drinks including a lemon, ginger & acai berry flavour. I like to think that if you are going to launch a new range then ginger is a must. The drinks were released to the trade at last week's Food & Drink Expo 2012 in Birmingham.

off licence news reported another launch last week when Stone’s Ginger Wine released a limited edition "Fabulously British" pack for this summer. This Accolade Wines product aims to highlight the brand's British heritage. Its lifespan will also cover the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the London Olympics.

Finally, a request from the Lancashire Evening Post. A Preston man is on a quest to find a part of his family history - a John Herbert ginger beer bottle. I know it is unlikely but can you help?