Ginger has a bouquet that is warm, sweet, and pungent. The flavor of ginger is surprisingly fiery and pungent. Ginger is in the same plant family as turmeric and cardamom, but has a wildly different taste.
Although it is often called "ginger root," it is actually a rhizome [like iris or canna flowers]. Ginger is native to India and China, and has been important in Chinese medicine for centuries. Ginger is cited in the Koran, indicating that it has been known and used in the Arab world since 650 a.d. Ginger is also one of the earliest known spices known in Western Europe, used since the ninth century. Ginger became so popular in Europe, that it had a place on every dinner table, like salt or pepper. Ginger was used to fight the plague in the Middle Ages. In nineteenth century England, barkeepers put mall containers of ground ginger on the bar, for patrons to sprinkle in their ale -- the origin of ginger ale. Ginger has a long history in European baking in dishes such as gingerbread and gingersnaps.