Wild ginger is becoming one of my new favorite flavors. If you’ve never heard of it or worked with wild ginger, it’s different from regular, store-bought ginger: Less pungent, but more floral and complex than the ginger we all know and love.
I recently wrote about wild ginger, both the Eastern and Western varieties, and about it’s largely unwarranted reputation as a kidney toxin. If you are concerned about the wisdom of eating small amounts of wild ginger, read that article. But the short version is that in moderation, and in recipes like this one, you’ll be fine unless you are working with bad kidneys already.
(Here is more information on wild ginger.)
You can also make this ice cream with regular ginger, too, although it will not be quite the same.
And the method works with most any herb. Mint is a great alternative, and, as I am in the high Sierra a lot lately, I am using wild mountain pennyroyal for this ice cream these days. Never heard of it? I’ll write about it more soon, but suffice to say it is a damn good mint.
Wild ginger, if you’ve never used it, looks nothing like domestic. It’s not even in the same family. Many cooks, even trained chefs, don’t realize that almost all the flavor in wild ginger is not in the rhizome — as it is with store-bought ginger — but in the leaves and stems. So if you want that wild ginger flavor, leave the rhizome in the soil and clip the stems and leaves.
This also happens to be good foraging practice because you are not killing the plant to make your ice cream. In some parts of the East, wild ginger is being hammered by professional foragers, so if more people realize it’s the leaves and stems that have most of the flavor, the better we will be able to manage our forests.
If you live around wild ginger, I urge you to try this ice cream: Wild ginger is an addictive flavor, one that I can best describe as “clean” — not something I normally associate with something as rich and creamy as ice cream.
Wild Ginger Ice Cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 ounces of chopped wild or domestic ginger, or mint
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- Save about 1/4 cup of the milk back to dissolve the corn starch in later. Heat the rest of the milk, the cream, sugar and ginger to the steaming point, about 160 degrees. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let steep for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight. To steep, let the mixture cool to room temperature on the stove, then pour it into a lidded container and refrigerate.
- Strain the mixture and pour it back into a pot. Turn the heat on medium to heat it up again slowly. While it is heating, whisk the corn starch in with the remaining milk until it is dissolved. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the ice cream base. Stir in the maple syrup. Stir the ice cream base frequently until it gets back to the steaming point, then stir it constantly for 8-10 minutes. You need to do this to get the mixture to set up correctly.
- Turn off the heat cool the mixture. I do this by filling a large bowl with ice and then nestling a smaller bowl inside the larger bowl. Pour the ice cream base into the smaller bowl, then stir frequently to cool it rapidly. When the ice cream base is cool, put it in your ice cream maker and follow its directions.
Hi Hank, a comment by National Ice Cream Day treat | Homosassa River Garden Club on July 15, 2012 said something about a European introduced vs a native wild ginger. Only part of that comment is showing on my computer and I cant find a way to show it all. It is preceded and followed by …. as though there’s more ? I would like to know more about the native vs introduced. Thanks !
Susan Canning says
I’m from the Pacific Northwest and have planted wild ginger in my garden.
It reproduces by rhizomes, running along and under the ground. It’s slow growing and can be easily eradicated. So, find a plant in the wild, take a little piece of the root and cultivate it in a dappled shade spot. Slugs love it so make a ring from a bottomless yoghurt container as a slug barrier. Also good dried for scenting apple jelly.
Hank Shaw says
Carrie: That would be my guess. I’ve only ever made this in spring. I know that all leafy things get tougher and more bitter as they age. Come to think of it, so do we. 😉
I tried this over the weekend, and it was quite bitter. Any thoughts? I was wondering if, since it’s September, it’s too late in the season to harvest — that the flavor isn’t as good.
We tried the ice cream recipe tonight with Eastern wild ginger and had mixed reviews. I LOVED it, as did my mother-in-law. She’s from Honduras, which might or might not have anything to do with it. My son ate it and somewhat liked it but said it tasted kind of strange. He’ll eat anything at this point. My wife and daughter tried it but wouldn’t finish their bowls; not surprising in my wife’s case, but disapointing in my daughter’s, who helped me gather the ginger and thinks that squirrel “wings” dipped in ranch is good eatin’. I’m looking forward to eating the leftovers tomorrow.
With the leftover ginger we made iced tea. We used equal parts wild ginger and chocolate mint. I strained it, added a squirt of agave nectar, then filled up a pitcher with a few sprigs of apple mint and enough water to top it off. It was the most refreshing, clean-tasting drink ever on a humid, Southern, 95 degree day. No disagreements about that, even from my beautiful (but somewhat high-maintenance) wife. It will definitely be a summer staple in our household from now on. It would make a fantastic mojito if the bad acids weren’t soluble in rum. Thanks for the article and recipe.
Ooo! This sounds awesome! I’m on the east coast, but I’ll have to find some wild ginger to try this!
Ginger in any form is one of my favorite things. Will have to read up on wild ginger and where it lurks. Your ice cream sounds divine.
It’s a state-listed species here in MS. I’ve only seen it a couple of times EVER, so I’m relegated to the familiar rhizome in my fridge.
i love ginger ice cream, sounds good!
I am making this right now! Just went camping, happened to see this recipe before leaving, and lo and behold! Camped right by tons of wild ginger…Thanks for the recipe!
Scuze my language, but, SHIT YEAH! This looks fantastic! Been looking for wild ginger a lot down here- I think I need to head further north, but you never know. Picked up a bunch when I was in the PNW a few years ago and, you’re right, the flavour is exquisite, and fresh.