CARE: Store in cool, dry place. Once cut, the root can be stored wrapped in plastic for up to one week. Ginger root may be peeled and covered with sherry wine before refrigeration for longer storage.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE: A ¼-cup serving of raw ginger root contains 16 calories and 100 grams of potassium.

(Jan. 20) Ginger is a South Asia native revered for its healing qualities. The gnarled root is a natural remedy for upset stomach, nausea, the common cold, morning sickness and chemotherapy patients.

Ginger is most commonly used in Asian cuisine and as a spice for baking. Gingerbread is the most common example of ginger’s use to flavor baked goods. Sweet and tangy, ginger is often used to make sauces or flavor stir-fry dishes. It can be served as an accompaniment to sushi. Ginger thrives in a tropical climate, and most U.S. ginger comes from Brazil, Indonesia, Hawaii, Guatemala and Costa Rica, depending on the season.

Although ginger sells best in an Asian market, it is moving into the U.S. mainstream.

Providing recipes is the best way to merchandise ginger, says Joyce Fredo, public relations consultant for Merex Corp., Yonkers, N.Y. “If they don’t know what to do with it, they’ll put it down and walk away,” she says. “The way to mainstream it is to give them the education they need to use it.”

At Foodland IGA in San Diego, a Hispanic-format store and one of Dallo Enterprises’ 10 stores, ginger is displayed with other Asian vegetables like pea pods, bok choy and bean sprouts, says produce director Steve Schindele. He sells about two cases a week at $1.99 per pound year-round.

Buy for Less in Oklahoma City, one of seven stores, uses its low ginger prices to entice customers to the store, says Jim Atkinson, produce manager and specialty buyer. He sells ginger for 40 to 50 cents a pound year-round. Other supermarkets normally sell ginger for 99 cents a pound at the cheapest, but Buy for Less is able to get its ginger from growers in Mexico and Costa Rica who sell it cheaper than many others, Atkinson says. “I use ginger as a draw. I’ve never seen ginger that cheap,” he says. “We’re the cheapest in a five-state area. Even in Asian markets, it’s usually never cheaper than $1.49 a pound.”

At Draeger’s Market Place in San Mateo, Calif, one of three stores, ginger is displayed with other types of imported roots, and near peppers like serrano and habanero. Draeger’s sometimes builds a small display of ginger and accentuates it with a red or pink sign that stands out from all the others, says produce clerk Mike Harold. A lot of ginger can fit into a small area, so the largest space a display would be given is 14 inches by 2 feet, he says.