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Productive Plant – Galangal

by Debbie Bassingthwaighte

Botanical Name: Alpinia galanga

Common Names:  Thai Ginger, Greater Galangal, Laos Root

Description:  Galangal is an attractive perennial herb that grows from a rhizome that’s quite similar to ginger.  The long, narrow leaves are about 30 cm long and the plant will grow to about 1.2 m tall with small white flowers borne above the leaves. 

Cultivation:  Galangal is a tropical and sub-tropical herbaceous perennial that grows best in under-storey or shaded positions in rich, free-draining, moist soil.  It is both frost and drought tender, but the clump will usually re-shoot in spring if the damaged leaves are cut back after a cold winter.  It’s also suitable to grow in a large pot which can be moved to a warmer spot in winter.

Culinary Uses:  The edible rhizomes have a fragrant, spicy, peppery taste (more like mustard than ginger) with hints of pine and citrus.  Young rhizomes are tender and older ones are tougher and not easily cut or broken.  Rhizomes can be used fresh, dried or ground into a powder, and the leaves, young shoots, flowers and buds are also edible.

Popular in many Indonesian, Thai and Malaysian dishes, Galangal is a spice that provides a distinctive sharp, pungent, aromatic taste and is often used with lemon grass, shallots, garlic and chillies to make curries and soups.