The age old question continues: Who do you prefer? Mary Ann or Ginger? For those of you too young to have any idea what I'm talking about, try Googling "Gilligan's Island".
While I was always a Mary Ann guy, culinarily speaking, Ginger's my gal.
We think of ginger as a seasoning mainly in Asian foods and, while it's used a lot in those cuisines, its use has spread all over the world--from German to Moroccan to Middle Eastern dishes. Not to mention such standards as gingerbread, ginger ale and more.
Ginger is a rhizome (an underground stem) like it's cousin turmeric (did you read my post that spice?). Pungent, a little spicy, a little lemony, ginger is a uniqe and versatile spice. It's the kind of flavor that work equally well for savory dishes (try Moroccan Ginger-Carrot Salad) and things like cookies and ice cream.
Choose ginger in the store that has smooth skin, no mold and feels a little heavy for it's size. As it ages and dries out, it will appear stringy at spots where it is broken. The easist way that I know of to remove the skin is to take a regular old teaspoon and lightly scrape the skin off. Then use the ginger as your recipe requires--minced, chopped, sliced, grated. Traditionally, porcelin ginger graters are used to grate it, but I find that a Microplane does a great job in turning it into a paste that easily mixes into dressings, sauces, etc.
To store fresh ginger, some say to wrap it loosely in a paper towel and keep it in the vegetable crisper in your fridge. Moisture will turn the ginger moldy and the paper helps to absorb it. I've found that it lasts quite long just by putting it in the crisper--not wrapped in anything. It's said that you can wrap it in foil and store it in the freezer, but I've not tried that. It wll lose crispness, but will still retain the flavor. I've also heard of some people grating it, adding a little water and freezing it as a paste.
The only drawback to using ginger in your cooking (if it really is a drawback) is that it can be easily overdone. If you are folllowing a recipe, use the amount that it says. If not, err on the side of less ginger--just so it doesn't overpower all the other flavors in your dish.