Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ginger, ginger, ginger

I found this ginger species for the first time when we were in Banaue, of the Cordillera Mountains. I found it so unusual because flowers sprout much earlier than the leaves. I learned later that the flowers really emerge ahead of the leaves, as soon as the rain fell after a long dry season. I wonder about its purpose for the species. 

Later that year, I hiked Mt Gulugod Baboy, a mountain near my place in our town.  My previous climb there was when i was in fourth grade. A flower spike was also growing in the wild, which prompted me to dig one rhizome. I planted it in an old tin can, where the original occupant already died out. It is now already about a year that it's growing in my mother's garden in the province. 

The flower at the right has the leaf already sprouting

This is turmeric or Curcuma longa (also in the farm under the cacao trees), they have similar leaves, which at first glance really looks the same with my Curcuma elata below. The difference is the tinge of purple at the midrib of C. elata.

This is the already grown plant from the rhizome i got from the mountain. Mother wants it to be removed from this area as its leaves are so prolific and will eventually cover the smaller plants like the Caladium, rosemary and the rose.

I removed the already bulging rusty tin can, and i saw a lot of rhizomes ready to grow and spread.

Somehow, the tin can didn't seem like restriction as the rhizomes are so plenty and healthy looking. They really resemble the immature ginger we are familiar with. However, our common ginger is of a different genus, Zingiber officinale. Both Curcuma and Zingiber are in the Zingeberaceae family though.

A week later the rhizomes turned green, at this stage they are ready for planting. I might not plant them anymore, as I think they will become invasive in our property. Just like the Alocasia, when they are already in the soil, they are very difficult to eradicate here in the tropics. I wish I can find some adoptors for these rhizomes. Curcuma elata is also called 'Giant plume', and is native to Myanmar.

Curcumin, a compound from Curcuma species, has long been found to be very useful medicinally. If you will read the following, you might look for this compound soonest. Curcumin is a potent scavenger of ROS, superoxide anions, hydroxyl radicals, singlet oxygen, nitric oxide and peroxynitrite. It also protects lipids, hemoglobin and DNA against oxidative peroxidation. So these only means, it is a preventive compound against cancer. Reference

However, Curcuma elata has very low concentration of these useful compounds compared to C. longa or turmeric. 


  1. Wow the Curcuma elata in the old tin can sure did take off! I have heard it can take over and spread quickly. It's a shame there's not somewhere else you could plant it so it could spread as it wants without crowding out other plants.

  2. It did spread quickly and I think I would not want to have it in my gardens either and take over.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  3. The first picture looks very much like the hill turmeric. Pretty blooms! Very healthy looking plants!

  4. There are so many gorgeous plants ---but when they are invasive (and take over)---it's not good to plant them... BUT--they are beautiful, aren't they????

  5. I love seeing the lushness of the gardens there. We tried to grow a ginger plant (can't remember what kind) many years ago in Santa Cruz, CA. It grew, but never produced anything edible. I would love to grow tumeric and ginger, but our soil and climate are not particularly good for such things. It is quite enlightening to see what grows in your area of the planet!

  6. I love curcuma flowers though I have a dreadful habit of overwatering them indoors..........shame that they need so much attention as houseplants here as they have a beautiful flower. Those leaves Andrea look very impressive aswell.

  7. You have educated me! Wow.

    Thanks for telling me about hibiscus and the way it behaves where you are. Here it is an exotic, temperamental beauty!

  8. Curcuma in my garden is resting for the winter, to return in the spring and bloom in August. Our climate discourages invasiveness.

    Re the Christmas Cactus, really an ephiphyte from Brazil, you can duplicate short days by draping with black cloth or placing under a basket.

  9. Bernie - yes it is a shame that after taking it from the mountains, i am now looking for adoptors.

    Cher - maybe is should plant it in very restricted container, those which it cannot break.

    kanak - yes it is really a turmeric, i have the caption there.

    Betsy - i wish that the leaves and rhizomes don't multiply that much, because i only love the flowers!

    Robin Andrea - you can easily modify your soils there in beds, as it is easy for you to buy soils from the nurseries. These gingers can tolerate cold climates, I am sure they will grow in California.

    Rosie - if they are indoors, one really can pamper them, which might sometimes is bad. At least with your climate, they will not be able to invade areas.

    Sandy Carlson - it is really amazing how differences in climates render some plants to be invasive in some but very difficult to raise in another; or waste in some areas and treasure in another.

    Nell Jean - your climate discourages invasiveness for tropical plants, just like Mimosa which is very invasive here and hated by people but raised there as ornamental plant.

  10. Ginger is both beautiful and tasty!! I wish it grew here, but it's very very tricky to get going!

  11. What an interesting post, Andrea. I didn't know this about ginger. It has such lovely blooms. :)

  12. C. elata has beautiful flowers and its lush foliage will be great for a bigger garden. I wish my C. longa is just as invasive because I'd love the ginger rhizomes and leaves for cooking, but their flowers are not as pretty as C. elata.

  13. Hello Andrea - is that the turmeric you can use as a spice? It looks very like it. I don't have a hope of growing it, but I'm curious

  14. Wow..this is a treat to see! I haven't seen a ginger flower before.

  15. Chris - i hope you read my post as the real ginger you know is different, but it is in the post too.

    Nancy - I will tell you also what i told Chris above. Both Curcuma species and Zingiber species are in the Zingiberaceae family. Technically they are all gingers, but have different uses.

    Kininvie - yes, C longa is the turmeric we use as spice. You should see the last paragraph, where i put most of its main uses.

    Mumsy - please read my replies to Chris and Nancy above, as the ginger you might be saying is the common ginger. thanks for dropping and commenting here.

  16. Autumn Belle - i haven't seen flowers of Curcuma longa yet, as ours haven't produced blooms, although i planted it a year befor the C elata. I searched and check how C longa flowers look, oh they are almost the same except it is white. I didn't know C longa's leaves can also be used for cooking. I just heard if from you for the first time.

  17. Andrea, my C. longa has not flowered yet after almost 1 year. We plant it more for the tumeric ginger and leaves. The leaves are used in Malay/Indonesian cooking especially Rendang (dried beef/mutton/chicken curry) to go with lemang (glutinous rice cooked in bamboo tubes) and nasi lemak (steamed coconut and pandan flavoured rice). Tumeric leaves gives such curries a distinctive aroma. If you smell the raw leaves, you can get a hint of Malay curries. Hence, Malaysian home gardeners who also love to cook prefer to plant C.longa than C. elata.

  18. Autumn Belle - coincidence, accidental, serendipity or whatever, haha, my viand now is Chicken Curry i bought from the canteen. I am having early lunch as i only had 1 slice bread and coffee for breakfast. Curried food is not very common here, only chicken curry is popular. But after learning that turmeric is very good for health i put a little powder to my rice and when i have colds, i mix powder with honey and...gulp! Traditionally, fresh turmeric rhizomes are used here to color papaya pickles. But I plant C elata for flowers, i read they don't have much medicinal value. If only C longa leaves are used here, i will plant lots of them in the property, which is very suited for them.

  19. You could plant it in a sturdy pot that won't break down and then plant it in the ground. that way you keep it from spreading.

  20. You'll laugh at me, Andrea, but the only [plant] word I understood in your post today is ginger! :-D

    [No, Ruth is Canadian and speaks only English... and a few words of Mandarin, being of Chinese origin and a long-time China travel writer.]

  21. We have the Curcuma longa and elata in the farm. How they got there? I asked my mother to look for Curcuma alismatifolia (Siam Tulip). She mistook it for C. longa. When I said it's not the one, she bought C. elata, which is still not the one. Some of our plants exist by mistakes.

  22. Carolyn - thank you, yes actually that is my plan, but in the province it is difficult to get a big sturdy pot to reach our place, but I am on the lookout now.

    Francisca - i am so sorry about that, that only shows how poor I am in writing. I didn't know it is still technical, I tried to be as layman as possible, hahaha!

    Solitude Rising - at least your mother's mistakes are beautiful. I've read Siam Tulip already but i forgot now how it looks like, i will search, hoping i will remember. But i don't intend to add more Curcuma, ginger, or heliconia in the farm. They give me headaches later. Now the Calathea which i planted before are now being dug a little at a time by my sister.

  23. I planted some ginger, I got at the supermarket, in a pot to keep as a houseplant. I'm hoping for some nice green leaves and maybe in a few years I can harvest some roots :) It's amazing how beneficial many spices and herbs are.

  24. Hi Melanie - I wonder if it can withstand your cold, but i know it loves partially shaded areas here in the tropics. We love to eat raw those immature white rhizomes of ginger, with lemon and soy sauce, because it is a good companion for fried fish or meat.

  25. I keep trying to grow this from rhizomes I get at the grocery but it never works :(


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