Native to tropical India and common to Asian cuisine, ginger root is often used as a spice or condiment. The knobby "root" is actually a rhizome, or an underground stem, of the plant Zingiber officinale, which has reed-like shoots and white and pink flowers. It is in the same family (Zingiberaceae) as cardamon, turmeric, and galangal. Ginger is noted to have numerous medicinal properties, such as stimulating digestion, alleviating cold symptoms and nausea, and boosting circulation.
When buying ginger root, look for firm, clean knobs that are free of discoloration or mold. Fresh ginger root can be candied, steeped in hot water as a tea, or sliced thinly and pickled for use as a condiment. With a distinctive flavor that is both fresh and pungently peppery, it is often grated or juiced to season stir-fries, salads, desserts, and marinades.