Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is known in India as the ‘king of spices.’ Its delicious pungency and powerful curative properties have earned ginger the reputation in Ayurveda as the universal medicine. Ginger has been used since ancient times to aid digestion and treat stomach upset.
The ginger plant grows to almost a meter high, but it is the underground stem that is valued around the world as a cooking spice and healing herb. Native to Asia, ginger is now widely cultivated in warm climactic regions that have moist, fertile soil.
While ginger has many applications, its effectiveness on the digestion system is perhaps its greatest strength. When taken internally, it stimulates the release of salivary enzymes and encourages stomach emptying, two factors that studies show make ginger a successful treatment for motion sickness, pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting, and nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy. Ginger also shows promising results as a treatment for circulation and respiratory problems, migraine headaches, and inflammation. Several recent studies have indicated that ginger extract offers tangible relief for osteoarthritis of the knees.
Ginger is widely available and can be found fresh or dried in most major grocery stores. The root can be grated into a tea or mixed with water, lemon juice, and honey as a detoxifying drink that enhances digestion. Fresh ginger root can be chewed to calm nausea or to clear the sinuses. Side effects from ginger are rare, but it may cause indigestion if taken internally in large amounts. People taking blood thinners should exercise caution because of ginger’s mild anti-platelet–forming effects.
Khichri,a tasty meal made from rice and beans, is a classic Ayurveda dish renowned for its healing properties. This easy-to-digest rice porridge offers a cleansing, nutritious remedy for the entire body. In India it is served to infants; the elderly; and people who are sick, convalescing, or wanting to detoxify.
Once you are familiar with the basic recipe, khichri lends itself easily to improvisation. You can add any vegetable to khichri, but it works particularly well with chopped leafy greens, folded in about 15 minutes before cooking is done. You can also add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese into this risotto-like mixture after cooking. In India, it’s traditional to add a knob of ghee (clarified butter) and a dollop of yogurt to each portion before serving.
Khichri With Peas and Carrots
- 1 cup basmati rice (white or brown)
- 1 cup red lentils or split mung dal
- 4 and 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup peas (frozen)
- 1/2 cup carrots (cubed)
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 inch finely chopped ginger
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
- Mix rice and lentils and wash until the water runs clear.
- Put the mixture in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the water.
- Add the salt and turmeric.
- Add carrots and stir well.
- Bring to a boil on high heat.
- Add peas.
- Turn to medium heat and continue cooking, covered, until the rice and lentils are soft (approximately 45 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add more hot water to the pan as needed to keep the mixture moist.
- In a frying pan, heat the oil on medium heat and fry the ginger for 30 seconds.
- Add coriander, cumin, and chili powder, and fry for another 30 seconds.
- Mix half the spiced oil in the khichri and save the other half to garnish.
Serve garnished with spiced oil and chopped coriander.