Ginger is believed to be native to South China or India, where it has been cultivated since ancient times. The earliest recorded mention of ginger appears in Chinese writings. According to the Pen Tsao Ching (Classics ofHerbs), written by Shen Nung around 3000 B.C., ginger "eliminates body odor and puts a person in touch with the spiritual realm." In ancient India, ginger was believed to cleanse the body spiritually. Ginger also was used to preserve food and treat digestive problems. As in India, the ancient Greeks used ginger for digestive problems by eating ginger wrapped in bread after large meals. Eventually, ginger was added to the bread dough, and the product became known as gingerbread. The Romans also used ginger as a digestive aid. Arab traders introduced ginger to the Mediterranean area, and in the 16 th century, Francisco de Mendoza of Spain brought it to the West Indies. In England and Colonial America, ginger was made into ginger beer, a popular home remedy for diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting and a precursor to today's ginger ale.
Ginger thrives in the tropics and in warmer regions of the temperate zone. Currently, the herb is grown in several regions of West Africa and the West Indies, and in India and China. The plant reaches maturity in the late summer when the foliage begins to turn yellow. However, the root can be harvested at any stage simply by digging it up. The finest quality ginger comes from Jamaica, where production is most abundant. In the United States, ginger is grown in Florida, Hawaii, and along the east coast ofTexas.
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