Abundance, that describes life in Hawaii. There is always something in abundance either growing wild or in the gardens and farmer's market. Right now it is young ginger, starfruit, lilikoi and figs. I will tackle the first two.
Young Ginger on the left, see the thin skin and pink shoots?
You can grow ginger here, but it is so inexpensive that most people just buy it at the farmer's market in huge gnarly clumps for as little as a dollar. The edible part of ginger is the rhizome that develops underground. Starfruit, which in case you don't know grows on trees also are ripening quickly and can be found 5 for $1. I do know a few people with trees too, and they readily want to share the star fruit. In general it is used as a garnish fruit, because when you cut it into slices you find lovely stars. I use it to decorate tea glasses, fruit plates and I like to candy it to preserve it. Once candied most fruits have a very long shelf life and they are in general very pretty jewel like things that are almost irresistible to nibble on. Candied star fruit looks especially nice on cakes or cupcakes, but also looks lovely on mousse or creme puffs, shiny little stars glittering with sugar... how could that be anything but beautiful?
Ginger vs Young Ginger: Ginger is available all over the world and many cultures use it in their cuisines, especially Asian. The knobs of ginger found in grocery stores are common ginger and can be used in a variety of ways, but for candied ginger I prefer the texture of young ginger. Young ginger is tender and pink on the tips and almost doesn't need to be peeled. In addition to that, you will find that young ginger has a slightly more subtle taste with less of the burning of mature ginger. It slices easier and does not develop that woody fiber that more mature ginger does. It still offers plenty of kick and substance in flavor.
We also have many decorative gingers here honeycomb, pink, red and my favorite, torch ginger. The native ginger in Hawaii is 'awapuhi zingiber zerumbet it is a 1-3' plant with an aromatic root with red and green bracts saturated with a sudsy juice used as a shampoo here. Also it is said that if you have a toothache the root of this ginger can be chopped up and applied to the tooth and gums for relief. Edible ginger, 'awapuhi zingibe, officinale also known a s common ginger was brought to Hawaii by the Chinese. Here are some decorative gingers from my garden, the only one I do not have a picture of is the pink torch ginger that I bought at the Orchid Society Show, as it has not bloomed yet.
And so when at the farmer's market a woman offered me an entire pile of young ginger for $1, I immediately knew what I was going to do with it. Make Candied Ginger! As I rounded the corner I saw star fruit and just knew that I needed to candy that too.
Here is the very simple method for making candied ginger. Almost any fruit can be candied and dried to preserve and most any fruit that has been candied is luscious when dipped into dark melted chocolate. Even citrus peels take on a new life when candied. So go for it with whatever you have in abundance. Remember that the residual syrup you are left with after candying your fruit can be used to make your own ginger ale, just mix with some soda water at a 1:2 ratio.
Peel and slice ginger into 1/4 inch slices. Cover with water and boil. Allow the ginger to sit in the boiling water till it cools, then strain. This is ginger tea, a healthy and delicious drink that I like to add to my regular iced tea with mint. Ginger tea is good for you in many ways. It is said to be a digestive and also good in reducing mucus. For the star fruit, you do not need to do the pre-boiling as it is a more tender fruit. Just do the second process in the simple syrup!
Drain the ginger and place in a pan of simple syrup, equal parts sugar and water, enough to cover the ginger bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain & lay on a rack. Either sprinkle super fine sugar or roll the slices in it to make a fine coating.
If you live in a dry climate, just leave the slices out on a rack to dry. If like us there is a little humidity, you can either dry them in an oven with the light on (no actual heat) or use a dehydrator (which is what I do) to finish the drying process. Once dry the slices will last for at least a year if you keep them in an airtight container. They can be chopped and added to sorbets, breads and sauces. Actually if you leave a jar of them out on the kitchen counter, they will be nibbled constantly. You can aslo leave them in the syrup without drying them and they will keep in the refrigerator for a year or more.
Here they are in the syrup and here is the flavored syrup that can be used to make ginger ale!