Well, it’s pretty easy to identify fresh ginger root when you see it in the store. Just go for the regular ole’ Zingiber officinale species and you’ll be fine. This is the variety sold in grocery stores and should not be mistaken for its relatives, such as galangal, turmeric, cardamom, etc., but with such drastic differences in appearance there should not be any confusion. The finest ginger is grown in Jamaica, but most comes from China and other parts of Asia, and this is the type most stores sell. Just remember to use it while still fresh and young.
Ginger has a substance called gingerol, which contributes to the pungency level. It’s also the easiest to manipulate through cooking methods and can be transformed into several taste sensations. When dried, it is transformed into shogoals, which are twice as pungent. And when ginger is cooked, some of the gingerols and shogoals are transformed into zingerone, which is not that pungent at all, approaching a sweet and spicy flavor. This is why dried ginger is always stronger than fresh, and why crystallized or candied ginger is sweet yet spicy and very palatable.