Monday, 28 May 2012

Ginger Recall, Codex, New Releases & Zero Waste

A YouGov poll for Very Lazy, the British cooking ingredients specialist, has found that nearly a quarter of men (24%) couldn't identify root ginger from this picture. I don't know whether to be surprised or not. I suppose I should be; then again I am biased. The corresponding figure for women is nearly one in ten (11%). So why do men find it more difficult? Discuss.

Sometimes we come across a ginger product recall but, thankfully, not too often. But last week we noted that Coop Denmark is recalling fresh ginger over fears that pesticide levels of HCH could be above permitted limits. Coop Denmark is Denmark's leading retailer operating six retail chains and subsidiaries. The Danes do like their ginger so there could be a lot of ginger being returned.

The ginger being recalled in Denmark originated in China where the government is attempting to reduce farmers use of pesticides. According to China Daily in 2007, farmers were applying 1.45 million tons of pesticides a year on a range of crops. This was almost twice the amount necessary. Regulated HCH use is still allowed in China but I have read that it has been banned in Nigeria, another major ginger producing country.

The Himalayan Times reported that Nepal is to raise the quality of ginger destined for export to meet the international Codex standard. Most of Nepal's ginger exports have normally gone to neighbouring India but this valuable avenue has now all but closed. By improving the standard of ginger, Nepal hopes to meet the import requirements of replacement countries. This change follows the recent announcement of the formation of a national ginger association to represent all interested parties.

If you are interested in the Codex standard for ginger (Codex Stan 218-1999) you can read it here. It covers everything you could possibly want to know regarding the export of ginger covering quality, sizing, tolerances, presentation and labelling.

Malaysia's Daily Express reported that the state government of Sabah, the second largest state in Malaysia, is planning to make it the largest producer of ginger in the country. The report did not mention how the government is going to achieve this but I did find news from over two years ago in Fresh Plaza which stated that ginger farmers in Sabah asked for government assistance to modernise the production process. It also stated that Sabah had to import ginger from China in order to meet domestic demand. So becoming the largest producer should mean that Sabah becomes a net exporter.

We have a number of new ginger products to report this week. We'll start with CaryTown Teas from Richmond, Virginia. This North American Tea Champion runner-up in 2010 has launched a ginger & turmeric herbal tea. The tea also contains liquorice root, orange peel and lemongrass.

Wheat beers are becoming, or have become, very popular in the USA. I've reported on a number of occasions about the increasing number of ginger wheat beers. Well, another one can be added to the list. Texas-based Faust Brewing Company has launched Holy Whit!, a summer seasonal wheat beer made with ginger & honey. I really must find one to try.

Another drink which is starting to take off both here in the UK and in the USA is ginger cider. Vermont-based Woodchuck Cidery has launched Private Reserve Ginger cider, according to It contains organic yellow ginger from Hawaii's Big Island.

Interestingly, Hawaii is one of the few places in the world to grow organic ginger. According to Biker Dude of Puna Organics, yellow ginger comes from Japan but once grown on Hawaiian soil it ceases to be Japanese Yellow Ginger and becomes Hawaiian Yellow Ginger.

An unusual workshop took place recently in the Philippines. The Magsasaka Siyentista from WESVARRDEC (Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium) demonstrated to farmers a method of processing ginger with the aim of generating zero waste. This seems to be achieved by finding a use for the by-products. For example, ginger pulp, a by-product of producing ginger powder and previously just thrown away, can now be used in pastillae and jam. By the way, a Magsasaka Siyentista is a farmer scientist.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Jack Benny, Bunting, Spices Parks & Ginger Witbier

The Los Angeles Daily News reported on an unusual anniversary two weeks ago. It was on May 2nd, 1932 that Jack Benny took to the airwaves with his first radio programme. In those days, and for quite a while afterwards, radio programmes were sponsored and actually took the name of the sponsor. In Jack Benny's case, his show was called "The Canada Dry Ginger Ale Program". It was broadcast twice a week for five months until Canada Dry stopped the show for what The Digital Deli referred to as Benny's 'persistent needling of his sponsor'. You may think that this was a case of don't bite the hand that feeds you. But, as we now know, Jack Benny went on to bigger and better things.

Here in the UK, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is nearly upon us. If you want to participate and you're finding it difficult to purchase your bunting, you are in luck. Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer has very kindly created some downloadable bunting in PDF format. As George and Camilla might say, what a tickety boo idea.

Two neighbouring states in the north east of India could see the creation of spices parks, according to The Economic Times. The Indian government's Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry is keen to develop these parks in Meghalaya and Assam as centres where farmers can deliver their crops, such as ginger and turmeric, and have them graded, processed and packeged for export. It is hoped that by cutting out the middleman, farmers will receive a better price.

Later this month the New York Historical Society will open a fascinating exhibition called Beer Here: Brewing New York's History which will run until early September. A stalwart of the New York brewing scene, according to the society's website, is the Matt Brewing Company which has been around for 150 years. During the prohibition era, the company produced a range of soft drinks, including the popular Utica Club Ginger Ale, in order to stay in existence. What took my eye was a reference to another soft drink, a non-alcoholic malt tonic, which contained the following advice on the bottle label, “Caution: Do not ferment, do not add yeast, or you will create beer”.

If you live in Hawaii you may be interested in a very important project being undertaken by the Kohala Watershed Partnership (KWP). The role of the KWP is to maintain the 50,000 acres of Kohala tropical rain forest. Unfortunately the forest has been infested with one of the world's most invasive weeds, Kahili Ginger. This plant is native to the Himalayan region of India but has now taken root in countries as far apart as Jamaica and Australia. Its spread has been inadvertently caused by its popularity as an ornamental garden plant. The project aims to raise enough money to fund a specialist team of 'ginger ninjas' who will concentrate on the total eradication of this plant before it is too late. I'm sure the authorities in Queensland, where the plant has been officially designated as a weed and therefore a risk to biosecurity, will be interested in the progress of this project.

I've been reading about ginger produced in the Philippines and its export to Japan, Germany, Hong Kong and the UK. I only ever see Chinese ginger in the produce section of my local supermarkets so I have no idea when I have consumed Filipino ginger. Local farmers grow a mixture of lower yielding but more disease resistant native varieties and higher yielding but less disesase resistant foreign varieties such as Hawaiian and Jamaican. Apparently, if you slice open a piece of ginger and its colour is yellowish-brown with pinkish lines, you have a Hawaiian variety. And if you encounter a small, red and very pungent rhizome, it's a Red Native.

NTD Television carried the news from Chinese state-owned media reports that farmers in Qingzhou City, Shandong Province, have been preserving their ginger and cabbage in a cocktail of harmful chemicals. Farmers have been harvesting these crops, applying pesticides and an insecticide called dichlorvos (sold under trade names such as DDVP and Vapona), and also applying a poisonous chemical known as 'six-six powder' or 'sixty-six powder'. The crops are then stored until the price rises. According to the state-owned media reports, farmers have been using 20 bottles of DDVP and 150kg of 'six-six powder' for every 25,000kg of ginger.

The Deccan Herald has reported again on the continuing plight of ginger farmers in the Malnad region of the Indian state of Karnataka. The farmers switched to ginger last year following the failure of their non-ginger crops. But even though they have avoided disease this season, they haven't been able to do anything about the fall in the price of ginger. They will be lucky to recoup their investment.

A former athlete celebrated his 80th birthday whilst descending from a solo 17,000ft climb in the Annapurna mountain range in Nepal. According to the Croydon Guardian, he celebrated at the top with a ginger tea.

North Carolina's Highland Brewing Company launched a ginger Belgian-style witbier this month which will be available until August. No sooner had it been released than Esquire magazine named it as one of the Best Beers of 2012, according to Mountain Xpress. This must really be worth trying.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Ancient Grater, Spiced Beers & Ginger Milk

An exhibition of ancient Chinese artefacts featuring a second century BC bronze ginger grater has opened at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. From the Western Han dynasty, the grater was excavated at Xianggangshan in 1983. You can see it online by viewing the virtual exhibition and stepping through until you reach the kitchen section. I think you'll agree that the design wouldn't look out of place in your kitchen today. In fact, similar devices made from bamboo are still used in some Chinese provinces.

I never cease to be amazed by the number of new ginger-spiced beers and real ales which regularly appear on the market. I've just found another one which, technically, isn't new but it is making a re-appearance. The Harpoon Brewery, from Boston MA, will release its 100 Barrel Series #42 Ginger Wheat ale this month. This ale, at 6.8% abv, should have been bottled last week for the first time since 2009.

I did stumble across another ginger-spiced beer last week. Derby, an English city in the East Midlands, has been named by the Campaign for Real Ale as the UK's real ale capital. The city has received this accolade in honour of its seven breweries. I took a particular interest in the Middle Earth Brewery as it brews Black Rose, a chocolate and ginger stout.

Keen to find out more about Black Rose, I contacted the brewery for some additional information. I shall let Carla Johnson, a brewer at Middle Earth Brewery, tell you a little about this interesting beer. "Black Rose started off as a stout only for winter but due to its success we have been brewing it over spring too. I wanted to create a ginger beer but so many breweries had made pale ales with ginger so we knew it needed to be different. I then started to think of stouts and could not think of a ginger stout! My partner (Steve Twells) and his friend devised the stout recipe and then we added the ginger to the brewing process. Powdered ginger is added to the mash tun when the hops are added and then I add grated root ginger to the cask for the flavour to develop". Thanks Carla.

Parakhi reported on a welcome development by the Nepalese government's Ministry of Commerce and Supplies (MoCS) which has announced plans to help ginger farmers throughout the country. I've mentioned before about the problems faced by farmers trying to sell their ginger crops. MoCS will now create a number of processing units in the major ginger producing districts and a much sought-after storage facility.

Wise Monkeys is an interesting collaborative blog based in Vancouver, Canada. It contains posts on an eclectic range of subjects including one on how to make ginger milk. I've read about ginger milk before but have never actually tried this Chinese dessert. Maybe now is the time.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

World Beer Cup, Thai Cooking & Nepalese Ginger

I will start this week by announcing that the All Things Ginger website is back again after changing our hosting ISP and domain registrar. At the time it felt as traumatic as moving house but, on reflection, it wasn't that bad.

Congratulations to the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery for winning a bronze medal in the Herb & Spice Beer category at the 2012 World Beer Cup for its Hardywood Gingerbread Stout. The brewery, from Richmond in Virginia, brewed the imperial milk stout with fresh local ginger and honey. If you think that 'fresh local ginger' is a mistake, think again. Ginger cultivation is becoming quite popular in Virginia, albeit under cover. The ginger used in this beer is grown locally at Casselmonte Farm. The brewery's own page for the beer contains a You Tube video about the making of the beer.

If you like to read business and company histories, you'll find this Morning Advertiser article about Hartridges, the soft-drinks company, particularly interesting. I read it because Hartridges makes a lovely ginger beer which my wife describes as the best she has ever tasted.

Australia is interested in investing in Pakistan's agriculture sector, according to the Pakistan Agriculture blog. Although the post didn't contain any specifics, I would imagine that Australia is interested in ginger. Consumption of ginger in Australia is increasing but domestic production is limited. Last year, Pakistan exported 18 tonnes of ginger to Australia compared with 28 tonnes from Indonesia. But, significantly, the ginger from Pakistan was nearly two-thirds cheaper.

Thai cooking is very popular in the UK. You can find a wide range of Thai recipe books in many bookshops. Thai restaurants are established in many towns and cities. Now you can read about Thai ginger cooking in Thailand itself in the Chiangrai Times.

I've been reading an interesting USAID report from last year on the ginger sector in Nepal. I knew already that ginger is an important crop, particularly as an export commodity to India. What I didn't know is that the unit cost of ginger exported to India is considerably cheaper that the unit cost of ginger imported from India. Is the quality of Indian ginger superior?

The USAID report states that the major competitors of Nepalese ginger are Assam, Bangalore, Tibet and the internationally famous Cochin. Stiff competition indeed but I've never heard of Tibetan ginger. Can anyone help?

I also discovered from the report that ginger comes top of the list of spices grown in Nepal in terms of land use and production. In fact, ginger production is nearly twice that of garlic, turmeric, chilli and cardamon combined. I wonder if the Australians have considered this as a potential source?

To finish this week, here is a You Tube video of a ginger harvest in Andhra Pradesh, India. Unfortunately, it is not in English but it is still very watchable.