Roots in cookery

By roots, we mean the underground parts of the plant. Roots are the organs of the plant that store energy in the form of carbohydrates, but they differ in concentration and balance from starches, sugars, and other types of carbohydrates. The roots support the plant and absorb water and nutrients from the soil on its behalf, they create growth hormones and send them to it, and they interact with soil microorganisms helping to keep the balance.

A vast amount of roots, what we call root vegetables, and more, are edible. They are highly valued in cooking and are of great nutritional importance. On the one hand, we have potatoes, carrots, beets, etc. On the other hand, we have ginger, turmeric, and many others, which are smaller in size and have different uses.

Ginger is one of those roots, often referred to as a spice because of its strong pepper flavor. It has been used in cooking as well as in treatment for thousands of years in China and then in the Mediterranean, from around the 9th century. It traveled around the world and now it is loved by everyone. Now, ginger cultivation is taking place in Fiji, Indonesia, Australia, India, and Jamaica. It is the basic ingredient of Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Korean cuisine, but it is also found very often in the kitchens of the whole East, while it is used mainly for savory and less for sweet preparations.

The Japanese love it in the form of a pickle cut into translucent slices and they accompany their sushi with it. In England and Scandinavia, people use it in gingerbread, while the British also use it in fruit compotes and jams, as well as in cakes and biscuits. Germans in the past invented the idea of gingerbread houses which became a Christmas tradition around the world. In the Caribbean, they enjoy ginger in their drinks, and ginger beer is very popular.

Fresh ginger has a strong smell and taste but softens while cooking. It has a very characteristic lemon-like acidity combined with spicy pepper and a slight sweetness.

Ginger goes well with all aromatics and spices: allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry leaves, fennel seed, mustard seed, garlic, parsley, sesame, anise, tamarind, turmeric, vanilla, and more.

It is such a versatile ingredient in the kitchen, as there are so many ways to add it to your diet that you have never imagined:

Use it fresh in your seafood. Grate it and then add it to melted butter with dry mint and serve it as a dip with lobster and shrimp.

Add ginger and brown sugar by sprinkling pumpkin or sweet potatoes before baking.

Ginger will tenderize your meat and add flavor. Spread it before grilling.

Add ginger to white sauces and sweet sauces for more complexity in flavor. Add it to applesauce, fruit tarts, and cheesecake.

Make energy drinks in the juicer and add them, boil them and drink some very beneficial tea.

Add dried ginger to the salad dressing. The list is very long!

It can be found everywhere, in a root form or dried and ground. In a root form, it is kept fresh for a long time, along with your garlic and onions, in the refrigerator or freezer. In a dried form, it loses some of its strength but continues to maintain its flavor. If you decide to get a dried one, you can keep it sealed in a container in the fridge for up to a year and make sure you choose a good supplier.

It is said to inhibit the growth of gastrointestinal cancer cells and kill ovarian cancer cells. Finally, it helps to recover from colds and flu by detoxifying the body through sweat.

Isn’t it a gift of nature?

Turmeric also belongs to the same category of multidimensional ingredient in the kitchen – a valuable therapeutic ingredient. It is another root often referred to as a spice due to its strong taste and specificity.

Originally from Asia, it has been used for at least 4000 years, as a spice and as a dye. It was initially cultivated in China, Sri Lanka, Java, and then in Peru, Australia, and the West. India. It is still used by the Hindus for their rituals and also for the color of the sacred robes of the monks.

Turmeric is one of the cheapest spices and as a dye, it has the same effect as saffron, but in a dish, we should never replace one another. Its use in cooking in India has religious implications.

It is commonly used in Asia and the Middle East not only as a spice but also as a cooking dye, while in India it is used to color sweets. Apart from its widespread use to season meat and vegetables in North African cuisine, it is the most important ingredient in curry and curry powder.

Turmeric is rich in healthy nutrients such as proteins, vitamins C, E, and K, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, etc. and is used to treat many health problems.

It has anti-inflammatory properties and has been proven to be effective in treating osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis by relieving joint pain if taken regularly.

It has important antioxidant properties by destroying the free radicals that damage cells and its active ingredients make it, according to research, valuable in the treatment of many types of cancer.

It stimulates the immune system, has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal agents, and actively treats staph. It also contributes to the production of vital enzymes in the body that reduce toxins, especially in the liver, and stimulates bile, helping the digestion and breakdown of fats.

Turmeric is used in the treatment of diabetes by helping to balance insulin levels. It also helps control glucose and increases the effect of drugs for its treatment. Research shows that simply using turmeric as a spice can lower blood cholesterol levels.

It is therefore not an exaggeration to call it a “golden” spice and super food. The curcumin it contains, on its own, is not as effective as the whole root, so adding it daily to our diet is the best way to benefit from it.

Not sure how to incorporate turmeric into your daily routine? We have a few ways to suggest to you.

Add some freshly grated or ground to fruit blender, lemon vinaigrette, salad dressing, baked potatoes or vegetables, velouté vegetable soups, grilled vegetables, etc.

Be careful: turmeric can stain your cookware. It is a fat-soluble substance, so you can clean everything simply by using a little olive or coconut oil.

Ever wonder why you’re so addicted to curries and Thai soups? There’s a zesty, spicy, aromatic note in there and you’re not sure what it is? Unless you see some ginger-like rings floating around. But it’s not ginger, it’s galangal, the secret ingredient you should learn more about.

Galangal, also known as Siamese ginger, belongs to the same family. It is a very similar root. Its skin is thinner and lighter in color than ginger, its interior is a whitish, pale yellow, or pale pink, and its flavor is stronger and sourer.

It has been widely used in Asian cuisines for centuries and besides its culinary use, it has also been known for its medicinal and aphrodisiac properties in Europe since the Middle Ages. Also, It is mentioned in the “Canterbury Tales” under the name galingale. Then it disappeared and reappeared nowadays in Asian restaurants.

It was melted, boiled, and drunk as tea to support the immune system, promote good blood circulation and fight nausea and stomachache. Today’s research confirms this fact.

There are two types of galangal, the large and the small, with the small having a more peppery taste. The small one is said to come from China while the big one is from Indonesia. In the form of a powder, it has a milder taste and mostly, and it is used in fish dishes as it covers up the strong “fishiness”.

Galangal is traditionally a main ingredient in Thai curries.

Another valuable root is the arrowroot. Its powder is very often used in gluten-free preparations, paleo recipes and is extremely versatile in the kitchen. But before you dive headfirst into the experiments, you need to learn 5 things.

Arrowroot powder is a starchy substance from the root of the Maranta arundinacea plant.

It is important to mention that this starch is not like corn flour. The way it is produced is simpler and traditional without the use of heat and chemicals. It can replace corn flour in cases of sensitivity, allergies, etc., but also as a thickening agent in sauces and broths, even in sweet glazes. It does not affect the preparation at all as it is tasteless and, in the end, it leaves the dish with purity and a unique shine, unlike corn flour which has a taste and leaves the dish dull and cloudy. But be careful: the correspondence with corn flour when you replace it is not 1:1. Better to start with 1:3 of the required amount because you may end up with an unwanted thick jelly.

Here we will also share a secret: in the case of the thickener, remember to mix the arrowroot powder first with a quantity of cold liquid (such as water) and then add it to the food in the end, as it is affected at high temperatures. The effect is excellent when used with acidic ingredients and more with cold than hot.

Arrowroot powder or starch is versatile and we would be limiting ourselves if we thought of it only as a thickening agent. We can mix it with other flours such as coconut, almond, or tapioca flour in bread or dessert recipes, without this meaning that it cannot stand on its own as long as the preparation requires small quantities.

If you want to make something crunchy, arrowroot is a perfect choice. Sprinkle it over the potatoes, or add some dried aromatics and sprinkle them over the chicken before frying.

This flour, as it does not come from cereals, is very easy to digest (especially for those with stomach issues and sensitivities. Not only that, but it also contains more fiber than potatoes and other starches and in that way, it improves bowel motility and reduces the feeling of hunger. It has significant amounts of vitamins and trace elements. Research has proved that it helps the body’s defenses.

These were roots, previously unknown in Greek kitchens, which spread very quickly. We loved them for their various uses, their unique qualities, their special taste, and their healing properties. We invite you to explore and experiment with them. Soon you won’t be able to do without them!

You can find some of these products by clicking on the link below:

Ground Ginger

Ground Turmeric

Ground Galangal

Ground Arrow root