Ginger is a flowering plant that originated in Southeast Asia. It belongs to the Zingiberaceae family, and it’s closely related to turmeric, cardamom, and galangal. The raw plant root does not have a sell by or used by date as most fresh produce we purchase from the supermarket. Ginger DOES go bad. When ginger is stored properly the shelf life will be approximately:
Fresh ginger root
Ginger in jar
Ground ginger (powder)
1 year +
How to tell if ginger has gone bad
It is always important to practice proper food hygiene and safety. The easiest way to tell if your ginger has gone bad is to simply perform the sight test. When ginger has gone bad it will have a more soft and moist texture. If you have cut of a piece of the ginger root previously and leave it untouched, you will see that the ginger root will become a different texture and colour. Eventually, it will go moldy. You can cut the mold off the piece of ginger root and discard. The remaining piece will still be okay to eat if the mold hasn’t reach the ginger flesh. However, if in doubt you should not eat it. Plus, if ginger is moldy, it has lost most of its nutritional value anyway.
Another way to tell if ginger has gone bad is to give it the smell test. Usually, rotten ginger will not have the same strong smell that fresh ginger has. It may even get an unpleasant smell.
You can also test the texture of your ginger, it should be firm and a feel hard when you hold it. If it feels mushy then it’s probably going bad.
What happens if I eat old ginger?
You should avoid eating old ginger. I know we don’t want to waste food, but ginger root actually produces a toxin called safrole. This is a known toxin and carcinogen so it’s really best to go with a fresh piece.
How to store ginger
If you are going to use the ginger root within the few days after purchase it is fine to leave it out unchilled. A few days on the counter will not cause it to spoil. However, if you want your ginger to stick around for longer, it is okay to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
Powdered ginger will lasts much longer because the moisture has already been removed. So unless the ginger powder becomes wet, it will last for months. Just remember that spices to tend to lose their potency over time, but that doesn’t mean it has gone bad.
It is best to store your powdered or unrefrigerated ginger like other spices, that means in a cool, dark place, away from heat sources. You probably also want to keep your spices somewhere that’s easily accessibly so you can reach them while cooking. However, it’s best to avoid keeping spices above the stove.
How to refrigerate ginger
If the raw ginger root still has the brown skin intact you can simply place it in the refrigerator in a sealed brown bad in the vegetable drawer. However, once you have begun to use your ginger, you can also extend it’s shelf life by peeling and grating it and then mixing it with salt to make a paste. You can then store this in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer.
How to freeze ginger
It is possible to freeze ginger if you would like it to last longer. To do this you simply need to take your piece of fresh ginger root and grate it. You don’t need to peel it or wash it but of course you can peel it if you want to. You then divide the mass of grated ginger into appropriate portion sizes and freeze. You could use ice cube trays as the portions will be frozen equally.
The only downside to this is that when the ginger is defrosted it will become soggy, so be sure to use it in dishes that are going to be cooked. Or, you could add it to your smoothies!
Is it okay if ginger is blue or green?
Sometimes you may slice into a piece of ginger and find that it has a faint blue or green ring circling the perimeter. This doesn’t mean your ginger has gone bad. If the ginger is blue and if it’s just in a very faint ring, you probably have Chinese white ginger. If the blue is throughout the entire knob and more distinct , then it is likely you have a piece of ginger that was bred to be blue! The reason the ginger is blue is because of anthocyanins, a type of plant colorant in the flavonoid family (the same thing that gives fruit and vegetables vibrant hues).
Does ginger root need to be washed?
Well, it doesn’t make that much sense to wash it if you are going to peel it anyway. However, sometimes when ginger is young the skin is soft enough that you don’t need to peel it. In this case, then yes you can wash your ginger root to remove any possible dirt.
Ginger health benefits
- Ginger may alleviate symptoms of a cold. So if you feel a cold coming on, it may be good to sip some ginger tea. And of course, it’s probably best to use the fresh root as opposed to the dried powder as this appears to have antiviral effects.
- May calm the digestive system. Ginger is known as a carminative which means it promotes the elimination of excess gas from the digestive system, and is known to soothe the intestinal tract.
- May play a role in weight loss. A 2019 literature review concluded that ginger had a very positive effect on obesity and weight loss, however additional studies are needed.
- Supports cardiovascular health. This still needs additional research but some small studies have been conducted with evidence that ginger extract potentially helps with cardiovascular disease.
Is ginger safe for everyone?
Most of the time ginger is safe. However, it is a potent herb and does have pharmacological properties. This means it could be unsuitable for people that have a history of oxalate containing kidney stones, those who experience heartburn or acid reflux, and those with low blood pressure or on blood pressure medications. Of course, if you are in doubt, check with your health care provider whether it is safe for you to consume ginger.
And, as I have said before, make sure not to eat ginger that has gone bad! You want to get all those health benefits and the delicious full flavor.
Is ginger safe during pregnancy?
Ginger is a safe way to manage nausea during pregnancy. Furthermore, it does not appear to increase the risk of pregnancy symptoms such as heartburn or fatigue. But once again, always consult with your health professional before making changes that can impact your health.
Now that you know more about ginger storage and its shelf life, make sure this healthy food will become a staple in your kitchen.