Monday, 25 June 2012

Ginger Research, Prevent Rot & Politics To Ginger Ale

I came across two articles last week about a possible link between weight loss and ginger consumption. I would like it to be known that I wasn't actively looking for weight loss tips but, if I'm honest, I could lose a few pounds. Anyway, let's start with a Chinese diabetes site, diabeter. It mentioned a study which found that ginger, as a thermogenic food, increases the metabolic rate which, in turn, increases energy output. Basically, it purports to burn off the calories.

The second article, in Food Product Design, was a report on a study with the lengthy title "Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: A pilot study". This study, conducted by the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University in New York, has found that drinking a hot ginger beverage with breakfast can reduce feelings of hunger in overweight men later in the day.

Fentimans is a well-known and well-loved non-alcoholic drinks company which has been around for over one hundred years. It was started by Thomas Fentiman in 1905 when he acquired a recipe for a botanically-brewed ginger beer. Although the company has brought out a range of non-ginger drinks over the years, it is only now that a new ginger drink has been created. Big Hospitality has reported that Fentimans has launched a botanically-brewed ginger ale mixer, but only for the on-trade. It has been developed as an accompaniment to whisky and contains galangal, cinnamon and pear juice.

Earlier this month I wrote about Nigerian research into using ginger and garlic to extend the shelf life Kunun-zaki, a popular local non-alcoholic drink. Well, Nigerian scientists have been at it again. The Journal of Stored Products and Postharvest Research published a report earlier this year entitled "Storage and consumer acceptability of fruit: Ginger based drinks for combating micronutrient deficiency". Fruits are an excellent source of micronutrients for Nigerians (anyone, in fact) but, as we all know, the level of micronutrients starts to decrease soon after harvesting. This study found that adding ginger to a range of fruit juices (pineapple, orange & paw-paw) reduced the presence of microorganisms noticeably as long as the drinks were kept refrigerated.

The Fiji Times informed us that last year Fiji earned $30.4 million from the export of root crops and vegetables. Out of this figure, ginger accounted for an $6.4 million, an impressive 21%. A government official said that agriculture is the backbone of Fiji's economy and that farmers and investors should be encouraged to expand the sector with the backing of government time and resources.

Fiji exports most of its ginger to Australia although it is attempting to enter European markets. Understandably, Fiji would like to increase its ginger exports to Australia. But, according to My Sunshine Coast, there could be a slight problem. Queensland's Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry minister, John McVeigh, has said that he will fight the Federal government's decision to allow imports of fresh ginger from Fiji. He claims that the ginger could harbour bacterial diseases and contaminated soil.

India's Daily News & Analysis was one of many sites to report on a joint venture between Gujarat University and the Confederation of Indian Industries. They will create the Centre of Excellence in Nano Technology to extract natural dyes from turmeric, ginger, garlic and leaves using environmentally-friendly methods.

Research into the medical uses of ginger is taking place all around the world. I noticed that last Thursday was the closing date for volunteers to register for an Iranian clinical trial called "The effects of ginger on hypertension in patients with type 2 diabetes". This could be a significant study as cases of both hypertension (or high blood pressure) and diabetes are increasing markedly.

For those of you interested in growing ginger, Jamaica's The Gleaner published some advice from the government's Department of the Rural Agriculture Development Authority on how to prevent rhizome rot (part 2). This disease affects ginger crops in many parts of the world so it is well worth a read.

Still in Jamaica and the government's Agriculture and Fisheries minister, Roger Clarke, who has said that ginger production is among the fastest growing agricultural sectors globally. That's what I like to hear.

I found a fascinating business start-up story on Richmond BizSense, a business site for Richmond, Virginia. Casey Werderman has launched Humdinger Craft Soda with its first offering being Humdinger Ginger Ale. I'd be interested to know whether locally grown ginger is used (if you haven't seen previous posts, ginger is actually grown in Virginia, some close to Richmond). Casey works full-time as a public affairs manager but his previous job was as chief of staff to a Virginia Senate Majority Leader.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Silver Sofi™, Crabbie's Sauces, Ginger Lager & Rising Prices

I'll start this week by congratulating those ginger products which are the National Association for the Speciality Food Trade's 2012 sofi™ Silver Finalists. This year's runners-up, to be honoured tomorrow in Washington D.C, are Japanese Ginger Chocolate Bar from Romanicos Chocolate, Ginger Peach Black Tea from The Republic of Tea, Ginger Soother from The Ginger People and The Latest Scoop Ginger Pear Sorbet from Cable Car Delights. You can see the other silver finalists here. Hopefully I will have a list of gold award winners next week.

Crabbie's was in the news again last week. This time, according to The Drum, it has launched two ginger flavoured sauces, Ginger Spiced Sweet Chilli Sauce and Sweet Ginger Splash, in the Asda supermarket chain. The sauces have been created in partnership with the increasingly popular sauce company, Trees Can't Dance.

Halewood International, producer of the Crabbie's range, plans to double in size, says the Liverpool Daily Post. It will be interesting to see how Crabbie's con>tributes to this growth.

The Retail Times reported that Firefly Natural Drinks has teamed up with Selfridges to launch a limited edition lemon, lime & ginger drink in a collectable yellow bottle. The drink will be available in all Selfridges stores to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.

Lance Seeto is an Australian chef who works at the Castaway Island restaurant in Fiji and who also writes a weekly column for The Fiji Times. His column last week described how he was struggling to shake off cold symptoms brought on by the start of winter. Naturally, he was advocating the use of ginger as one of the remedies to strengthen the immune system. I've never really thought about winter in Fiji. According to Wikipedia, the average winter temperature in Fiji is a chilly 22C (72F). Where I live in the UK the average summer temperature seems to be a positively balmy 22C. It's all relative, I suppose.

According to The Daily Telegraph, Ted Baker, the British-owned international fashion chain, celebrated the Queen's Diamond Jubilee week by giving out free ginger beer in its shops.

The Americans love their malt & hop beers with added ginger. The Utica Observer-Dispatch reports that the local FX Matt Brewing Company has launched a limited-edition Saranac Lemon Ginger in the style of a Belgian Saison. A Saison is a pale ale brewed for harvesting farm workers in Wallonia, and, by definition, is also for a limited period.

Still in the US and the Minneapolis St.Paul Business Journal introduced us to a new brewery and taproom called 612Brew. The brewery will launch with two regular beers and a summer seasonal beer (the one of interest to me) by the name of "Mary Ann". Mary Ann, named after a character from the 1960s TV series Gilligan's Island, is a German-style lager with added freshly grated ginger. Ginger is also a character from Gilligan's Island.

I'm always pleased when a restaurant uses ginger prominently in its signature dish. These dishes help to spread the word about ginger far beyond places where it is grown. The latest signature dish which I have discovered (on the Internet, that is, not in person) is Chocolate & Ginger Venison, from the Hildebrand Ristorante in Cape Town. A number of South African websites describe it as a fusion of Italian flavours and African flair.

Unfortunately, there was a ginger product recall last week. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported that Scholtens Inc has recalled Granny Appleton Crystallized Ginger in 125g packs owing to the presence of sulphites. The recall applies to packs sold in Ontario. I'm not sure whether sulphites are supposed to be in this product or that the level is too high.

In recent years, manufacturers have become more aware of the problems which sulphite ingestion can cause, particularly for those with respiratory disorders. Four years ago Queensland's Buderim Ginger started a two-year project to determine whether chlorine dioxide could replace sulphites as the preservative of choice. I've never read about the project's outcome but here is an interesting, and recent, report from the Queensland government on the same topic.

A smile must be returning to the face of many a ginger farmer in southern India. And the reason why? The price of ginger has actually started to rise. With most Indian ginger harvested during May and imported ginger not set to arrive yet, there is now a shortage in markets countrywide. This shortage has naturally translated into a rise in price. One farmer was so surprised by the increase that he decided to sell his crop which had been set aside for next season's seed. But some Indian farmers have missed out on the near three-fold increase in recent weeks. Farmers from Kerala leased land in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. As the leases expired by the end of May, these farmers had to harvest and sell their crops before the price started to rise. It is feared that the price will fall in the near future as cheaper imports from China reach the markets. (Sources: The Hindu, mathrubhumi, Deccan Herald)

Still in India and a story in The Telegraph about a ginger farmer in the state of Assam. An important source of income for him is the export of his ginger to Bangladesh. The best financial return is gained by exporting dry ginger as the drying process retains the quality and increases the shelf life. Unfortunately for him, there are no drying facilities in the region which means that he can only export ginger flakes. These flakes, which I imagine are painstakingly air-dried, have a more limited use and, consequently, a lower value.

Queensland's Sunshine Coast Daily has reported on a leaking dam and the potentially damaging consequences for ginger farmers who rely on the water supply. It hasn't been a problem so far as recent rain has replaced the leaking water but this can't continue once the weather changes.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Gingerbread Day, Ginger Honey, Organic Ginger & Pink Beer

Last Tuesday (June 5th) was National Gingerbread Day in the USA. I don't know how long it has been going for but it exists to spread the word about this delicious product. There were many US websites featuring gingerbread recipes on the day but one that took my eye in particular was for Auntie May's Ginger Biscuits. You can see the recipe on Arkansas-based KFSM's 5News website. This is one food commemoration day I wouldn't mind seeing here in the UK. And why stop at gingerbread. Let's have a National Ginger Day where we can celebrate ginger beer, ginger ale, ginger tea and countless other ginger-based products.

Digressing for a moment from the world of ginger, Mahalo tells us that in the US 'each and every day of the year has been designated as a holiday for at least one food, and often there are actually multiple food holidays on the same day'. These food holiday or commemoration days are designated by either the US President or the US Senate. Apparently, today (June 10th) Americans are enjoying Herbs & Spices Day, National Iced Tea Day and National Black Cow Day, and tomorrow they can treat themselves on National German Chocolate Cake Day.

Calgary-based Big Rock Brewery produce an interesting beer called Rye & Ginger. It is a Bavarian-style roggenbier (rye beer) containing up to 60% rye malt. To this Big Rock adds some ginger. And Canada's Metro carried an interesting statistic - 75% of Rye & Ginger sales are to women.

Here's something to look out for in the UK. The New Zealand Honey Company has launched its Manuka Honey & Root Ginger in the Morrisons supermarket chain. According to the Otago Daily Times, the ginger honey is available in about 420 branches which, by my calculation, is roughly 92% of the total. I haven't checked yet but I wouldn't be surprised if my local store is one of the few which doesn't stock it. It looks like a very tasty product so if you manage to buy a jar, let us know what you think of it.

An alarming state of affairs has developed in the Canadian federal territory of Nunavut. The Winnipeg Free Press has reported that the local Inuit population is suffering under the strain of sky-high food prices. A protest was organised for yesterday and a Facebook campaign launched to highlight instances of high prices such as a head of cabbage for $20, a small bag of apples for $15 and a case of ginger ale for $82.

Vintage Nation, this summer's biggest vintage event in the UK, was held yesterday at Brighton Racecourse. The event, in the form of a marketplace, was staged to celebrate sixty years of Britain at its best. Sixty years of fashion, food and music. So what better place than this for Crabbie's to set up shop. Actually, Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer was one of the main sponsors of the event. The brand hosted a 'village green' with games, ginger cupcakes, ginger beer samples and a Crabbie's bar. I didn't go but I would have been interested to hear Crabbie's musical offering - Mr.B The Gentleman Rhymer. Mr.B, I am informed, performs chap hop which is hip-hop delivered in a Received Pronunciation (or Queen's English) accent.

I've been reading about the emergence of the Northeast Region (NER) of India as the country's organic ginger hub. Although three years old, the gist of the 'Traditional practices of ginger cultivation in Northeast India' paper from the Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge is, I assume, still valid today. The ginger-producing states in the NER include Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, and farmers here still practice traditional methods of cultivation which rely on organic inputs. The region, which produces nearly three-quarters of India's total ginger production, benefits by its impressively large range of ginger cultivars. I'm not clear what the determining factors are when it comes to selecting which varieties to grow; it could be micro-climate, disease resistance, cultural, historical or a number of other reasons. Anyway, have a read yourself - it's quite interesting.

Houston's CultureMap has introduced me to the Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company, a brewery committed to experimental beers. And its latest beer seems to epitomise the experimental nature of the brewery. I'm not entirely sure what it is called (Summer, I think) but it is made from Belgian witbier yeast, hibiscus flower, ginger, coriander and orange peel. What sets this beer apart from other unusual beers is that it has a pink colour. Yes, pink! The beer has the catchy tagline "Real Dudes Drink Pink".

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Crabbie's In US, Extended Shelf Life, Storage & Sponsorship

Let's start this week with our old friend, Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Halewood International has announced that it is to launch the drink in the US and Canadian markets, according to Drinks Business Review. The report added that the drink will be launched initially in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Washington DC, California, Illinois, Texas, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin. So keep your eyes open for it.

Yesterday (Saturday) saw the official release of an unusual but interesting beer at an equally unusual but interesting event. The Boxcar Brewing Company from West Chester, Pennsylvania, hosted an old-fashioned train ride in 1950s rolling stock which transported participants to a pig BBQ with blues and rock music, and the launch of the brewery's new 7% abv Mango Ginger IPA. If you have any comments about the beer or took any pictures, let me know and I will feature them in a future post. Incidentally, the beer can be found at this week's famous annual Philadelphia beer festival, Beer Week.

Here in the UK we are in the midst of Diamond Jubilee celebrations. And the Retail Times informs us that Firefly Natural Drinks has joined in by releasing a limited edition design for its Rule Britannia tonic. This blend of apples, blackberries and ginger can now be found in a bottle covered with the Union Jack and cheekily set off with a corgi image on the gold cap.

Border Biscuits is a Scottish maker of gourmet and specialist biscuits. From a range of 31 products, the company's best seller is Dark Chocolate Ginger. According to Scotland Food & Drink, sales for the first five months of this year increased by a very impressive 65%, driven partly by a combination of new packaging and additional listings, and partly, I like to think, by the fact that it is ginger. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what these biscuits are like as I've never been able to develop a taste for dark chocolate.

I think that Cott Beverages must have taken a leaf out of the Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer book of marketing. Crabbie sponsors the British Comedy Awards and last Christmas also sponsored ITV programmes. According to just-drinks, this summer will see Cott Beverage's Old Jamaica Ginger Beer sponsor live comedy shows on the Comedy Central TV channel. Those clever people in marketing must have discovered a link between ginger and humour. Is it the feel-good factor? You can make it this week's topic to discuss.

Fresh Plaza reports that the Brazilian ginger harvesting season will start in one or two months. Exporters are expecting a very good season for a product which is shipped to the UK, US (during Hawaii's off-season), Italy France and the Netherlands. Brazilian ginger is dearer than the widespread Chinese ginger but is preferred by some consumers for its superior flavour.

Like many Asian countries, Nepal has a constant battle with drug producers and smugglers. The Himalayan Times reported last week that a smuggler posing as a vegetable farmer was caught with 101 kg of hashish hidden in six consignments of ginger, destined for abroad.

I've actually found a ginger scientific research paper which I have been able to read and, for the most part, actually understand. The Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science has just published a paper called "The effect of ginger and garlic on the microbial load and shelf life of Kunun-zaki". The research was undertaken by a team from the Department of Microbiology at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in Umudike, Nigeria. Kunun-zaki is a popular non-alcoholic drink in Nigeria and is made from fermented millet, sorghum, guinea corn and maize, and flavoured with ginger. The aim of the research was to determine whether treating kunun-zaki with ginger, garlic and a combination of both could reduce the microbial population and extend the shelf life. The researchers found that although garlic on its own was the most effective in reducing the microbial population, the combination of both ginger and garlic extended the shelf life by up to four days. I wonder what other drinks this could apply to?

The Jamaican Gleaner carried a short but informative article about that bane of ginger farmers' lives - rhizome rot. So wherever you are, if you think that you may be affected, read this article.

It's that time of the year again when The Financial Express comments on the cultivation of ginger in the Bangladeshi district of Nilphamari. It's that time when farmers are still optimistic. Nilphamari is subdivided into six upazilas and all of these produce ginger. The district used to provide 80% of the country's total ginger requirements but in recent years has only produced around 50%.

Here is a tip from the People's Daily Online. Harvested ginger is liable to dry out in winter and deteriorate in summer. So the solution is to bury the ginger in wet sand in a flowerpot and leave it there until required.

Each May (and I'm a little late with this story), the people of Sabah in Malaysia celebrate their harvest festival (or Kaamatan). Part of the festival is the legend of Kinoingan who is revered as the god or creator. The legend begins with the premise that in the distant past seeds did not exist. So Kinoingan sacrificed his only daughter in order to provide seeds to grow food. Why is this of interest to me? Well, various parts of the daughter's body provided the required seeds. Her head gave the people coconuts, her teeth created maize and her fingers and toes resulted in ginger.