Ginger is a herbaceous perennial which grows annual pseudostems (false stems made of the rolled bases of leaves) about a meter tall bearing narrow leaf blades. Ginger is in the family Zingiberaceae, to which also belong turmeric (Curcuma longa), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), and galangal. Ginger originated in the tropical rainforests from the Indian subcontinent to Southern Asia where ginger plants show considerable genetic variation. As one of the first spices exported from the Orient, ginger arrived in Europe during the spice trade, and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans.
The characteristic fragrance and flavour of ginger result from volatile oils that compose 1-3% of the weight of fresh ginger, primarily consisting of zingerone, shogaols and gingerols with -gingerol (1-[4′-hydroxy-3′-methoxyphenyl]-5-hydroxy-3-decanone) as the major pungent compound.
Zingiberene is a monocyclic sesquiterpene that is the predominant constituent of the oil of ginger (Zingiber officinale), from which it gets its name. It can contribute up to 30% of the essential oils in ginger rhizomes. This is the compound that gives ginger its distinct flavouring.