Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Harvest of Organically Grown Local Baby Ginger

It was my pleasure to join a small but excited group at Windcrest Farms in Monroe this past Monday for the first harvest of a new crop of Baby Ginger! Mary Roberts owner and farmer at Windcrest, a certified organic farm, grows all kinds of cool and unusual herbs and veggies, but this first crop of baby ginger was something special.

Roberts and her team started the ginger from organic seed from brought in from Hawaii early in the year and then transferred the tender young plants to their home in the ground in one of Windcrest's many greenhouses several months ago. The crop is finally ready and available for sale at the farm, at the Matthews' Farmers' Market from Windcrest on Saturday mornings and also, like much more of Mary's produce, in the produce department of Reid's Fine Foods on Selwyn Ave. in Charlotte..

I'll be in WCNC's Charlotte Today studio cooking with my friends, show hosts, Colleen Odegaard and Rob Tanner, on Thursday Oct 13, sharing a classic recipe for Japanese Steakhouse Ginger Salad dressing made with the locally grown rhizome and I am very excited. You can tune in - its channel 36 in Charlotte (6 on cable) and the show airs from 11 am to noon - I'll be on cooking sometime during the hour.

This is the first harvest of the baby ginger and its beautiful! This new baby ginger comes without the hard, heavy skin grocery store ginger always has, has a light and delicate flavor plus tons of health benefits as well.

Lots of recipes to choose from to enjoy this light and delicate Asian flavor, but here are three of my personal favorites -
Hope you'll visit Mary at the Market and the enjoy cooking with the baby ginger while it is here and available, fresh and in season - its really something special!

Classic Japanese Steak House Salad Dressing
3 Tbsp. minced onion
3 Tbsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
3 Tbsp. finely minced baby ginger
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 clove minced garlic
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Combine onion, oil, vinegar, ginger, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender and process until combined.Spoon over a plate of your favorite mixed greens.

Homemade Candied Ginger
1 pound fresh baby ginger, thin sliced (you will need to peel an older variety of ginger)
4 cups granulated sugar
4 cups water, plus more for the initial cooking
pinch of salt

Put the thin baby ginger slices in a large stainless steel pot, add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for ten minutes. If you are making this recipe with older store-bought ginger you will want to repeat this precooking process one more time.

Mix the sugar and 4 cups of water in the pot, along with a pinch of salt and the ginger slices, and cook until the temperature reaches 225F measured on a candy thermometer

Remove from heat and let the ginger stand in the syrup for at least an hour while the mixture cools.

Remove the ginger from the syrup, reserving the syrup, and place the sliced ginger on a cake rack fitted over a baking sheet with sides. Drain the ginger and then sprinkle with additional sugar to coat both sides of the ginger. As the ginger cools more sprinkling sugar may be necessary.

For your own Ginger Ale
1 to 2 Tbsp. of ginger syrup left over form making the candied ginger
sparkling water
Juice of one lime
Fill a tall glass filled with ice, add ginger syrup and the juice of a half of a lime and top with soda water. Adjust flavor adding more ginger syrup or lime as needed. Stir to blend and garnish with lime wedge or a sprig of fresh mint

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