Root Awakening; Ginger is the key ingredient to summertime refreshers

Root Awakening; Ginger is the key ingredient to summertime refreshers

By KATHLEEN DEELY, Sun Staff

LOWELL -- It increases circulation, fights inflammation and aids digestion. It can also reduce cramps, protect the liver and wake up your sex life.

It isn't the new Prozac or Viagra, it's ginger. The Asian root that's the least expensive spice in the supermarket aisle is not only good for you, it's become a summertime refresher.

At Life Alive on Middle Street, ginger crush is selling as fast as iced lattes around the corner. Served in a mason jar, this thirst quenching drink will make you forget about caffeine at least for the afternoon.

A blend of fresh ginger, lemon juice, organic honey, water and ice, the holistic pick-me-up was invented by cafe owner Heidi Feinstein, who constantly introduces her favorite healthy foods to her customers in innovative ways.

I love ginger and lemon together. It's great to get it into your diet. Why not do it deliciously?" said Feinstein, herself a petite picture of health.

The recipe for the crush, which tastes like a tart ginger freeze, gives you a boost of energy without the jitters or post crash of iced coffee or tea. And it's easy to make.

The many benefits of the spice from the Asian tropics have been touted, both professionally and as homespun wisdom, for centuries. Like cayenne, turmeric, cardamom and cinnamon, ginger is used liberally in Chinese medicine as a purifier. But like most pungent herbs, it is not for everyone. Ginger has a warming effect and is not recommended for people with heat conditions or gallstones, said Feinstein, who is certified in naturopathy and nutrition.

While warming drinks may sound contradictory in the summer, hot liquids actually cool the body down faster than cold beverages, health experts say. "When you travel south of the equator the food gets spicier. By eating these foods our bodies get warmer and brings us over the edge quicker," said Feinstein.

When crushed ginger is folded into vanilla ice cream at Sullivan Farms in Tyngsboro, the result is a cooling, sweet and refreshing change from the ubiquitous Moose Tracks. It's also a perfect guiltless pleasure. Remember you are eliminating anti-oxidants with every lick. Sullivan adds a crushed ginger and corn syrup concoction into his 14 percent butter fat milk ice cream. The flavor has won fans, but it was a hard sell. "The first couple of times I tried making it, I thought no one would eat it at all," said Sullivan, who runs the popular ice cream stand in the shadow of the Tyngsboro Bridge. Now ginger ice cream is one of his top selling wholesale flavors, which he sells to Asian and Japanese restaurants in the area. "I think its a flavor that can grow on you," he said.