Food and Drink

How to Tell if Ginger is Bad?

Ginger is a fragrant and flavorful spice commonly used in cooking. It packs a punch of spicy heat and pungent aroma. Ginger adds a warming, citrusy, and slightly spicy flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. It is popularly used in baked goods, stir-fries, curries, and beverages like tea, lemonade, and cocktails.

Fresh ginger root can last a surprisingly long time when stored properly. However, there will come a point when your ginger is past its prime. Spoiled ginger loses potency in both aroma and flavor. At its worst, lousy ginger can make you sick.

So how how to tell if ginger is terrible? Here are some tips for identifying sour ginger to keep this zingy spice fresh.

Signs of Bad Ginger

Watch for these signs that indicate your ginger has spoiled and needs to be tossed:

Wrinkled, Dry Skin

Fresh, high-quality ginger has smooth skin that looks and feels tightly stretched over the root. As ginger ages, the skin looks wrinkled, dry, and papery thin. The root inside also starts to fade and dry out.

If your ginger skin is no longer smooth and supple, it’s well past its prime. The flavor and moisture content has deteriorated.

Soft Spots

Press gently against the flesh of your ginger root. It should feel uniformly firm. Any soft spots or indentations indicate spoilage.

Soft patches on ginger mean water content has evaporated, and mold growth has begun. Don’t use ginger with weak spots; it may also be spoiled inside.

Moldy Spots

Specks or mold spots are a sure sign your ginger has gone wrong. Discard the ginger immediately if you see:

  • White mold growing on the skin or cut surfaces
  • Blue, green, or black velvety mold
  • Tiny black dots under the skin

Mold spores spread quickly to contaminate the whole root. Don’t try to salvage ginger with molded spots.

Shriveled with Tough Skin

Ginger that is badly dried out with tough, leathery skin and a shriveled shape is long past its prime.

At this point, it has lost most of its moisture and natural oils. The flavor will have dissipated, making this old ginger unpalatable for cooking.

Strong Rancid Smell

Fresh ginger has a spicy, bright, lemon-like aroma. There should never be a foul odor.

Trust your nose if you notice a rancid solid or rotten smell from cut ginger. The flavor has turned, and it’s not safe to eat.

Visible Mold Growth

Sometimes, mold growth on ginger isn’t immediately visible. But if you see mold growing on adjacent produce, like garlic, in your pantry, check your ginger for signs of spoilage, too.

Store ginger by itself, not touching other fruits and vegetables, to prevent cross-contamination of mold and bacteria.

Why Ginger Goes Bad

Why Ginger Goes Bad

Now that you know how to identify lousy ginger, let’s look briefly at why it tastes terrible.

Loss of Moisture

Fresh ginger contains around 80% water content. The water gradually evaporates as it sits in storage, causing the root to dry out.

Without sufficient moisture, the flesh shrinks, fibers toughen, and the flavor diminishes. When the moisture content drops too low, the skin appears wrinkled and papery.

Growth of Mold and Bacteria

Ginger is vulnerable to mold growth under certain conditions:

  • Warm temperatures promote bacterial and fungal overgrowth.
  • Damp storage environments allow mold to thrive.
  • Bruises, nicks, or damage to the skin provide entry points for microbes.
  • Aging weakens the natural antifungal properties of ginger.

Exposure to mold spores coupled with moisture loss allows mold to take hold and spread.


Like other plant products, ginger undergoes oxidation over time. This chemical process degrades components like oils and pigments.

The flavor profile changes during oxidation and undesirable compounds form, creating “off” notes and rancid aromas. The ginger loses its characteristic spicy, lemony essence.

How to Store Ginger Properly

Proper storage is the key to preventing ginger from spoiling quickly. Here are some tips:

  • Store ginger unpeeled. The skin protects the flesh and prevents moisture loss.
  • Keep ginger dry by storing it in a paper or mesh bag. Avoid plastic bags or airtight containers.
  • Refrigerate for longer shelf life. Cold temps slow moisture loss and oxidation.
  • Wrap the roots individually in paper towels before refrigerating. This absorbs excess moisture and prevents mold growth.
  • Place ginger in a separate produce drawer away from ethylene-producing fruits like apples, bananas, and pears, which hasten ripening.
  • Check periodically for signs of mold growth, like black dots under the skin. Remove any compromised roots immediately.

Follow these guidelines to extend the life of your ginger as long as possible.

How Long Does Ginger Last?

How long ginger lasts depends significantly on storage conditions. Properly stored, fresh, unpeeled ginger root will last:

  • At room temperature: 2-3 weeks
  • In the refrigerator: 3-4 months
  • In the freezer: 6 months

Peeled, sliced, or grated ginger has a much shorter shelf life than intact roots. Use cut ginger within:

  • Refrigerated: 5-7 days
  • Frozen: 6 months

Freezing significantly extends the shelf life of fresh ginger, making it ideal for keeping on hand for several months.

For maximum freshness and flavor potency, buy ginger only as needed. Utilize the freezer if you can’t use fresh ginger root promptly.

Can You Eat Ginger with Dark Spots?

When cut open, some aged ginger roots may develop small dark spots or streaks on the flesh. These harmless discolorations are due to oxidation and are not dangerous mold.

But take care before eating ginger with dark spots. Check that the flesh is still smooth and firm. Sniff the ginger – it should have a fresh, spicy aroma without musty undertones.

While not necessarily spoiled, oxidized ginger will have diminished flavor. The taste may be unpleasantly bitter. Dark spots also indicate the ginger is old with reduced moisture content.

For the best flavor and quality, avoid using ginger with extensive dark spots. But if the root’s integrity seems intact, it’s likely still safe to consume.

Uses for Old Ginger

Uses for Old Ginger

Before throwing away shriveled ginger roots, consider these uses:

Ginger tea: Simmer old ginger to extract flavor for a warm, soothing tea. Add lemon, honey, and spices like cinnamon.

Ginger simple syrup: Boil ginger peels and scraps in sugar water to create a sweet syrup for cocktails, desserts, and drinks.

Ginger juice: Juice older ginger to salvage the remaining flavor for marinades, dressings, or ginger ale. Mix with apple or carrot juice.

Ginger candy: Candy stale ginger pieces in sugar syrup for a sweet-spicy treat. Coat in sugar or chocolate.

Ginger powder: Dehydrate and grind whole ginger pieces into DIY powder. Use ground ginger in baked goods and stir-fries.

Compost: Chop up old ginger to add to garden compost. It contains nutrients that benefit soil health.

With some creativity, you can put faded ginger to use rather than letting it go to waste.


Ginger adds unique heat, citrus, and peppery bite to various recipes. But like any fresh produce, it has a limited shelf life. Fresh ginger will be kept for months with proper storage in the fridge or freezer. If you spot any signs of spoilage like mold, wrinkled skin, or an off smell, it’s time to toss the ginger. Discarding sour ginger promptly can prevent illness and ensure your dishes retain that lively ginger flavor and aroma you love.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if ginger has gone wrong?

Signs of lousy ginger include wrinkled skin, soft spots, visible mold, a rotten smell, and dark drying around the edges. Discard any ginger that shows these signs of spoilage.

Can you get sick from eating lousy ginger?

Yes, consuming moldy or rotten ginger could cause illness. The bacteria and fungal toxins can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested. Always discard ginger at the first signs of spoilage.

What does ginger look like when it goes wrong?

Sour ginger appears shriveled, dried out, and wrinkled. The skin looks papery and peels easily. You may see white mold fuzz or black dots on the skin and cut surfaces. Soft indentations and dark streaks inside also indicate it has gone off.

Can old ginger make you sick?

Old, dried-out ginger alone won’t make you sick. But ginger that has grown mold or rot due to age can potentially cause foodborne illness. Constantly scrutinize older ginger before use and watch for any foul odors or visible mold.

Can I use moldy ginger if I cut off the mold?

It’s best not to use any ginger with mold growth. Mold can penetrate deep into the root, so removing visible mold doesn’t guarantee safety. The mold can leave toxic byproducts behind. Don’t risk eating any ginger you suspect might be moldy.

What does dried-out ginger taste like?

The flavor becomes more concentrated and hotter as ginger dries out, but the freshness deteriorates. Dried-out ginger tends to taste fibrous, woody, bitter, or burnt. The bright, lemon-citrus notes fade. Use fresh, moist ginger for the best flavor and replace any old, dried-out rhizomes.

Can dehydrated ginger make you sick?

Properly dehydrated ginger is safe for consumption. But ginger that has naturally dried out due to age may grow mold if stored too long. This moldy dried ginger can cause illness if eaten. Always inspect dehydrated or dried ginger for dark mold spots before using.

How do you treat ginger poisoning?

An illness caused by consuming contaminated ginger requires typical food poisoning treatment. Stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, and take over-the-counter medicines like Pepto-Bismol for nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Seek medical care if symptoms are severe or persist longer than 48 hours.

Does cooking kill bacteria in ginger?

Cooking can reduce some bacteria in ginger but may not destroy toxins from mold or bacteria. Cooking cannot make spoiled, moldy ginger safe. Always discard sour ginger rather than trying to cook or clean it.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button