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Ginger, also known by the scientific name Zingiber officinale, was originally found in what is now called China. This spice became so beloved of the early Chinese people that it was said to be the embodiment of the favorite son of the Kitchen god. There are many legends and stories about this spice to be found in the Orient, many of which revolve around the romantic aspects of the plant. For example according to some legends, even the most "plain" of women will be pursued by all the men she could want if she understands the use of this spice.
This love of ginger can be seen in just about every aspect of Chinese cuisine. In fact, it is used in everything from soy sauce, to sweeten and spice fruit and hour d'oeuvres. Ginger can, and does, provide wonderful examples of the power of choosing the right seasoning for your meals can have. Ginger can be used to either punch up the power of a dish, or if used judiciously can tone down an otherwise overpowering dish. All it takes is a little experimentation and imagination.
There are many properties that make ginger such a sought after spice. Besides it's culinary uses, ginger also possesses many pharmacological properties as well. Often used as an ingredient in perfumes and colognes, ginger can also be used to calm a nauseas stomach. Ginger ale, which naturally possesses ginger as one of its main ingredients, can be used to help settle the stomachs of children who are ill. In addition to helping ill children, ginger is also a main ingredient in many air and motion sickness medicines.
Though ginger is a plant that is native to the Orient, it has since spread throughout the rest of the world. Currently, the United States imports a vast majority of its ginger supply from the island country of Jamaica. Since it was first discovered by the West, ginger has been a favorite spice for baking things like cookies, pies, and cakes. Ginger has also been used as a method for pickling, as well as processing meat, and also as an additive for drinks. Traditionally, English pubs would keep ginger at the bar and add it to wine, beer, or porter which would then be stirred with a red hot poker. The resulting "spiced" drink would then be served hot.