Ginger is a versatile item that comes in many forms. You can buy a whole ginger root from your local supermarket, or you can get dried, crystalized, or pickled forms.
Lots of people eat ginger for health benefits, but how do you know when it’s no longer good to eat? Can it make you sick?
Ginger is a root, so it will eventually go bad and start to rot like any other vegetable. Once ginger begins to spoil or becomes contaminated with mold, you should not eat it. In fact, eating bad ginger can make you very sick. Remember, when in doubt – throw it out!
How to Tell If Your Ginger Is Bad
Most of the time, you’ll be able to tell pretty easily if your ginger is starting to turn bad. Fresh ginger looks healthy and feels firm to the touch.
The skin appears hydrated and doesn’t look dried out or soggy. When you cut into fresh ginger, it’s a bright yellow or tan color inside and the aroma is fresh and strong, as well as the taste.
As the ginger begins to lose its freshness, it first starts to become less firm and lose some of its color.
You may notice some wrinkles on the ginger’s skin, or the tips may feel soft to the touch.
If the ginger root just has some slight wrinkling but the smell is still bright and fresh and the flavor seems normal, the ginger is still good to use.
Once the ginger root becomes soggy and very wrinkled, or when the flesh becomes more gray than yellow, it’s beginning to spoil and you shouldn’t use it.
When it goes bad, ginger becomes quite flavorless, too.
If you observe any mold on the ginger, it’s also an indication that it’s no longer good to use.
How Long Does Ginger Last?
How long your ginger will stay good depends on the type of product. For example, fresh ginger will have a different shelf life than something you purchased in a jar like dried ginger.
How you store the ginger will also have an impact on how long it lasts.
Once you cut your fresh ginger, it will have a much shorter lifespan than if you keep it intact.
Similarly, storing your ginger root in the refrigerator will extend the shelf life versus keeping it on your kitchen counter.
If you purchased a processed ginger product like dried ginger, check the manufacturer’s “sell-by” or expiration date printed on the package.
If there’s no date present, most dried spices are good for about one year.
However, in general, you should expect fresh ginger root to last about one week. It may last quite a bit longer if you keep it in the fridge.
In some cases, your ginger root could stay good in the fridge for several months.
Ground, fresh ginger is also good for about one week, and it should always be kept in the refrigerator.
The same goes for minced ginger or ginger paste, but paste lasts longer – probably about one month.
The smaller the ginger is chopped, the shorter its lifespan will be. Large chunks will stay fresher longer than finely chopped or grated ginger because the smaller bits will dry out and become susceptible to mold faster.
Pickled ginger lasts a little longer. It typically stays good for at least two months in the refrigerator.
When it comes to fresh ginger, you may not know how long it’s been for sale on the store shelf when you bring it home.
In that case, you’ll have to use your senses to determine when the ginger root is no longer fresh and good to use.
Can You Use Moldy Ginger?
When ginger starts to spoil, it may or may not have visible mold. In most cases, when you observe mold on your food items, it’s a sign that it’s no longer fresh and you shouldn’t eat it. Ginger is no exception to this rule.
Most of the time, you’ll find mold in areas where you’ve cut the ginger previously. The areas of flesh become exposed to the air, and it makes them susceptible to mold growth.
Mold can be different colors when it’s growing on ginger. You may see black rings, or it may be green or white.
If it’s not the yellow or tan color that you normally see inside a ginger root, then it could be mold.
In most cases, you should discard moldy ginger and not use it. However, some people are comfortable just cutting off the moldy part if the rest of the ginger root looks good.
This is really a personal preference and it will depend on what you normally do in your kitchen.
What If You Eat Rotten Ginger?
Eating rotten ginger can cause serious health problems, so you should never consume ginger that’s spoiled or rotten.
In fact, moldy or rotten ginger can produce safrole. Safrole is a toxin and carcinogen that occurs naturally in some products, but in large amounts it can be very harmful.
In fact, safrole can cause severe liver damage. So, it’s not worth it to eat ginger when it’s beginning to rot or spoil, as it could end up making you sick.
Can You Eat Sprouting Ginger?
If you let your ginger sit for long enough, it may begin to grow little green sprouts. These shoots of growth sometimes look alarming, or they may lead you to believe that the ginger has gone bad.
When potatoes start to sprout, you should never eat them. However, ginger root is a little different.
You can still use sprouting ginger just like you would use normal ginger, just cut the sprouts off.
You should know, however, that ginger typically loses some of its flavor and aroma once it gets to that stage.
It may also not have all the same health benefits as it did when it was fresh.
Can You Use Ginger After Its Expiration Date?
The dried, powdered ginger that you get from your supermarket’s dry grocery section has a very long shelf life.
Even if the expiration date doesn’t reflect it, this type of ginger will stay good for several years if stored properly.
Unlike fresh ginger, this type of processed ginger also doesn’t produce the same toxin or present the dangers of fresh ginger when it starts to go bad.
Like other processed, shelf-stable items, the date on the package is usually a “best-by” date, which is intended to be for product quality rather than food safety.
That means you can continue to use these products past the printed date on the label without worrying too much about it making you sick.
Over time, powdered ginger may lose some of its flavor and aroma, making it less effective in certain recipes.
So, if that’s your concern, you may choose to replace it with a new container once you reach the label’s printed date.
How To Store Ginger
When you purchase a whole piece of fresh ginger root, it’s best to store it in your refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
Place the whole piece in an airtight, sealed, zip-top bag then put it in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
This will keep air and moisture from causing the root to begin to break down or mold. Stored this way, the ginger should stay good in the fridge for quite some time.
Once you peel or chop your ginger root, you can store it in the fridge for about a week if you wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight, sealed container.
Some people soak the ginger root in a jar of vodka and keep it in the refrigerator for several weeks.
It’s also possible to freeze ginger, which is a good option if you don’t use it very often but you need it frequently enough to keep a piece on hand.
You should wrap the ginger tightly in plastic wrap then place it in a freezer bag. You can keep it in the freezer for about six months.
Frozen ginger may become soggy when you thaw it, but you can avoid this by not thawing it completely.
You can leave the ginger root in its frozen state to chop or grate it.
The Bottom Line
It’s never a good idea to eat food products that are spoiled or rotten. Once ginger goes bad and starts to mold, you should always throw it out.
Moldy or rotten ginger can make you sick or even cause liver damage if you consume it.
To tell if your ginger is good, look at the texture, feel it for firmness, and use your senses of smell and taste to determine the freshness.
Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so when in doubt, you should always throw it out.
Some people are happy with cutting away any moldy pieces if there’s only a small amount and using the remaining ginger like normal.
You can do this if you’d like, just be sure that you fully remove any mold and only use this technique if the mold contamination is minimal.
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