Sunday, May 17, 2009

Blue Ginger

Alpinia caerulea
These ginger plants are in fruit at Ravensbourne at the moment. We rarely see the local species in gardens, which is a pity, as they are very hardy plants, with ornamental leaves and fruits. The purple and white flowers, though pretty enough, and fragrant, aren’t showy enough to out-compete beautiful flowers of the imported ginger species in any popularity stakes.
These blue-fruits will last a long time on the plant (unless eaten first, by you or by a bowerbird). They have very little flesh, but what there is has such a good flavour that it’s well worth sucking the seeds for it. (Do be responsible, though, and don’t eat any unless you have first grown them yourself)
The seeds themselves are a useful spice, tasting much like cardamom, and can be used (crushed) to flavour foods. The tender growing ends of the roots have a mild flavour, not nearly as strong as commercial ginger root, and can be used as a cooked vegetable. The leaves are also useful in the kitchen, for wrapping food for cooking
Our local gingers are clumping plants, somewhat above waist-height, suitable for growing in dense shade (including indoors), and under trees. They have been largely supplanted, for garden use, by a northern form of the same species which has red-backed leaves and is less sun-tolerant. Our locals can be grown in almost full sun, especially if they’re given good thick mulch to keep the roots cool.
A well-grown plant might have some 30 stems. For those who dream of a simple life in a thatched hut, these are suitable plants for roofing.
They are frost tender.

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