But, since someone decided that this day in late spring should be dedicated to gingerbread, we are going to go ahead and go with it and find some fun things to do with gingerbread. First, let’s talk about the history of gingerbread. This yummy treat was first brought to Europe by Gregory of Nicopolis, an Armenian Monk. It originated from the Egyptians and Greeks who used the snack as a ceremonial offering. The name comes from the Latin term of “zingiber” from the French word, “gingebras,” which means preserved ginger. Many people take making gingerbread a serious thing and it is even considered to be fine art in Russia, Poland, and Germany.
Different Types of Ginger
Gingerbread is a sweet bread that you make with fresh ginger, honey or molasses, flour, butter, and some other ingredients we will talk about later. First, let’s talk about growing fresh ginger because that is the best thing to use when you make gingerbread. There are different types of ginger, which include both wild gingers as well as the kind you can buy at a nursery or online. Some of the best types of ginger for making gingerbread include:
- Common Ginger: Zingiber officinale is also known as the true ginger and is the most commonly used ginger used in ginger spice for cooking and other herbal uses. It is found in the tropical areas of Asia.
- Wild Ginger: Includes the Asarum from the Aristolochiaceae family. These include Asarum europaeum, Asarum canadense, and Asarum arifolum to name a few.
- Butterfly Ginger: Hedychium coronarium is also known as white garland lily or white ginger lily and is native to India, Bhutan, and Nepal.
- Dancing Girl Ginger: Globba bulbifera is also known as golden dancing ladies and is found in the United States in zones 8-11.
- Pinecone Ginger: Zingiber zerumbet is also known as bitter ginger or shampoo ginger. It is typically found in Australasia or Asia.
- Shell Ginger: Alpina zerumbet is also known as variegated shell ginger. It is native to the woodlands of Asia.
- Spiral Ginger: Costus barbatus, also known as red tower ginger or red velvet ginger. It is found in the United States in zones 9-11.
- Blue Ginger: Dichorisandra thyrsiflora is related to the spiderwort family and is native to the tropics of Central and South America.
- Native Ginger: Hexastylis or heartleaf is a segregate of Asarum and is found in the southeastern North American zones of 7-11.
- Peacock Ginger: The Hosta of the south, which is actually called Kaempferia and is a member of the Zingiberaceae family. This includes Kaempferia pulcra and Kaempferia pulchra.
Although there are many more types of ginger, these are some of the most common and are typically used in cooking, cleaning, and medicinal uses. The fresh ginger used in making gingerbread is sometimes called “handy” ginger or the ginger hand because the root actually looks like a hand. Yes, you use the root of the plant for making gingerbread, not the plant or the flowers. You just chop or grate the ginger root until it is finely chopped or minced and add it to the rest of the ingredients.
So, how do you grow ginger? It is fairly simple if you grow it inside because the common ginger needs a warm climate to grow well. You can plant the ginger in the spring around April by planting a ginger root that you can buy from a nursery or supermarket. Choose a plump one that has eyes on the fingers but few wrinkles. Cut the root into pieces but make sure they each have at least one eye on them. Leave them to sit for a few days to heal before planting.
Use high-quality soil that drains well like potting soil or mix garden soil with compost. The soil should be mildly acidic between 6.1 and 6.5 pH. Get a 12-inch pot and place the pieces of ginger about three inches under the soil with the buds pointing up. Keep the pieces eight inches apart. Water it lightly and keep the soil moist but not soggy. In late summer or early fall, let the soil dry and the leaves and stem turn yellow. Stop watering it completely after the stem dies.
This is the difficult part, waiting for the ginger root to mature. So, if you need some fresh ginger root for this year’s gingerbread recipe, you are going to have to get it from the store. This freshly planted root is going to take at least eight months to mature before you can use it. Once that happens, you can cut off as much as you need, and the root will still continue to grow as long as there is still at least one eye left. Store the ginger root in a dry container for further use and you can start new ones next year in April.
Just like any other recipe, there are different variations, depending on where you look. I Googled it and got 53,700,000 results so I just chose the first one with the best ratings. Here it is:
½ cup of sugar
½ cup of butter
1 cup molasses
2 ½ cups of flour
1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of freshly ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground cloves
½ teaspoon of salt
1 cup of water
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit while you grease and flour a nine-inch square pan. Mix sugar and butter, beat in the egg and molasses. Sift the flour, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda and blend it into the creamed mixture. Then mix in the hot water and pour it into the pan. Bake for one hour and let cool in pan before serving. That’s it. It is pretty easy to make this delicious treat. Enjoy it on National Gingerbread Day or any day you feel like having it.