With so many uses, it’s only natural the ginger plant is big, bold and beautiful, with long, long leaves, many with a different colour underside, and some of the flowers are simply stunning.
Most gingers are native to Asia, where it has been used a food staple for thousands of years. Hot and spicy to taste, although not as strong as chilli, its health properties include working to stimulate the heart, settle the stomach, and as a treatment for morning sickness and other types of nausea. And it tastes great in stir-fries, curries and desserts.
Cooking with ginger
The best cooking ginger is Zingiber officinale and you just lift up the root (a type of rhizome), split it into pieces and replant it. The leaves are a much smaller than ornamental gingers and not nearly as flamboyant. But some newer varieties come with stunning, long-lasting ‘beehive’-shaped flowering cones in apricot, yellow, orange, pink and vibrant red. There’s even a chocolate coloured variety.
The preferred ginger for Thai cooking is the lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum). It has beautiful lush green leaves, and very pretty pink and cream, shell-like flowers.
Best gingers for your garden
Alpinia caeulea is an Australian native that grows more than two metres tall and has long slender leaves that weigh down on the stems and make them curve over. The top sides of the leaves are a soft green, but the undersides are a rich browny red with a soft, velvety touch. It produces tiny white, shell-like flowers that turn into blue berries. Both the roots and berries were used in Indigenous cooking.
The variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet variegata) is one of the more sensational looking gingers. It’s smaller than most, growing to about 1.5 metres tall and about 2 metres wide. Its cream, pink and yellow flowers hang through the foliage on long, pink racemes in spring. But it’s the leaves – long and quite broad for a ginger – the yellow and green variegation have a striking effect in your garden throughout the year.
Garden designs with ginger
While obviously ginger is a must for any tropical garden, because it thrives in warm and humid conditions, it can also add height and volume to a circular garden bed in the middle of a lawn, or as a stunning screen in front of windows where you want privacy but some light as well.
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