Ginger may be one of the most versatile and popular spices in your kitchen, but did you know that it’s not always good for you?
Some types of ginger—like ginger root—are toxic.
But there are other forms of ginger that aren’t necessarily bad for you, and they can still add a lot of flavor to your cooking.
So how do you know which type of ginger to use and what to do if you accidentally buy bad ginger?
Let’s take a closer look at this spice.
What are some signs that ginger is bad?
Before we dive into the good and bad parts of ginger, let’s talk about how to tell if it’s bad.
There are several ways to determine whether ginger is good or bad.
First, you should check its color.
A bright, vibrant orange is a sign of fresh ginger, while light green and yellow tones indicate that ginger has been sitting around too long and has turned rancid.
Next, check out the shape of the ginger.
Shriveled, wizened pieces with black spots are definitely bad.
In addition, ginger that has been dried up and brittle is probably bad as well.
It will have little or no juice when squeezed, and it won’t break apart easily when sliced.
Finally, ginger that smells musty or moldy is likely rotten.
The aroma alone is enough to make you want to throw the whole thing away.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a very reliable method because moldy ginger doesn’t always smell bad.
And even if it does, you might not notice it until after you’ve eaten it, so you could end up eating something that tastes fine but contains dangerous bacteria.
How can you tell if ginger is bad?
Once you’ve determined that ginger is bad, you need to decide what to do with it.
You can either discard it entirely (if you don’t mind getting rid of all of your precious ginger) or try to salvage what you can by cutting off the bad bits and using the rest.
The first option is the easiest, but it’s also the least practical.
Discarding ginger means throwing away a valuable resource.
Plus, you’ll have to deal with the waste from the process, such as the leftover ginger root.
This is not ideal if you care about being environmentally friendly.
The second option is more sustainable, but it requires a bit more work.
You can simply cut away any damaged portions and use the rest of the ginger in your recipes.
Or you can peel and grate the ginger before adding it to your dishes.
Both methods work just fine.
Is it safe to eat bad ginger?
The short answer is yes, though you should exercise caution when handling ginger in general.
Make sure to read the label and avoid buying anything that says “contains MSG,” since this is an ingredient used to preserve food and can cause headaches.
What does bad ginger look like?
Bad ginger looks like a dried-up piece of candy.
It turns brown and withers, losing much of its original volume.
It may also become hard and brittle, and it often feels gritty when chewed.
In addition to the aforementioned signs of rot, you should also look for these marks on the skin of the ginger root itself:
- Ridges along the surface
- Brown spots
- Abandoned white areas
- Faded coloring
You can also find mold growing on ginger in various stages of decay.
For example, the white fuzzy mold on the top of the ginger shown above is only visible when the ginger is wet.
What does bad ginger smell like?
Like many foods, ginger has distinct aromas associated with different stages of degradation.
Freshly harvested ginger has a citrus scent, while older ginger smells like ammonia, sulfur, and rotten eggs.
For example, here are three different varieties of ginger:
- Fresh ginger smells like lemon and lime
- Dried ginger smells like ammonia and rotten egg
- Moldy ginger smells like sulfur and rotten eggs
There are plenty more varieties of ginger, so you can experiment to see which scents best describe each stage of decomposition.
What does bad ginger taste like?
When ginger starts to go bad, it becomes bitter and pungent.
The flavor is reminiscent of licorice, but it’s not sweet at all.
It’s similar to the flavor of horseradish, but much stronger.
Once ginger starts to deteriorate, it loses its ability to impart flavor, so you’ll start to get a strong acridness instead.
Here are some examples of bad ginger:
- Raw ginger: Bitter and acrid
- Cooked ginger: Bitter and acrid
- Fresh ginger: Lemon and lime
- Dry ginger: Ammonia and sulfur
- Moldy ginger: Sulfur and rotten egg
How can you tell if ginger is fresh?
This is trickier than you might expect.
As mentioned earlier, there are several ways to tell if ginger is bad, including checking the color, shape, and smell of the ginger.
However, there are other factors to consider, such as the size and condition of the container in which it was stored.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure to purchase ginger from reputable stores. Avoid places where the packaging is flimsy and the store is run down.
- Never buy ginger that appears to have been sitting around for a long time. Instead, look for packages that are heavy and tightly sealed.
- Check the expiration date. Most ginger is sold in airtight containers with a sticker indicating the maximum shelf life of the product. Look for dates that are at least five years out and preferably longer.
- Avoid purchasing ginger that hasn’t been refrigerated. Refrigeration slows the growth of harmful microorganisms and helps prevent the spread of disease.
How can you tell if ginger is old?
As with any other kind of food, ginger goes stale over time.
The same principles apply:
Check the color, shape, and condition of the package, and make sure the ginger has been kept in a cool environment.
However, unlike other kinds of food, ginger tends to stay fresh longer than other produce.
You can actually eat ginger that’s a year old without worrying about spoilage.
Still, you should never buy ginger that’s beyond its expiration date, since it’s likely past its prime.
How can you tell if ginger is spoiled?
Spoiled ginger usually has a foul odor and a disagreeable texture.
If you’re unsure whether the ginger is still edible, you can always test it by chewing a small amount.
If the flesh has lost its firmness and breaks apart easily, then it’s definitely rotten.
The same goes for moldy ginger.
Japanese Beef Curry Recipe
- Cook the beef cubes in a large pot and transfer them to a plate once they are cooked.
- Add onions to the pot and cook them until tender.
- Stir in garlic, ginger and grated apple and cook for two minutes.
- Sift flour and stir.
- Add carrots, potatoes and spices and stir.
- Add tomato paste and red wine and bring to a boil.
- Stir in sugar, soy sauce and water and bring to a boil.
- Return the beef to the pot, cover and simmer for half an hour.
- Remove the lid and cook for an additional 30 minutes.