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Saturday, August 25, 2012

How to grow galangal (Alpinia galanga) from store bought rhizomes

1. A hand of galangal rhizome


Galangal is used as a herb cum spice in Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. Galangal is an ingredient in chicken and fish curry dishes and also my favourite Hari Raya delicacy, the rendang. The Chinese call it "blue ginger" while in Malay, it is "galangal" or "lengkuas".

As it is readily available at any wet market in this region, we are never shot of galangal. We also keep stock of galangal rhizomes in the refrigerator, ready to be used whenever the need arises.

Do you know that galangal can grow into a beautiful plant with showy foliage?
Even if you don't intent to harvest galangal for cooking, you can grow galangal plants just for their beautiful and cool-looking foliage. The whole plant is mildly aromatic. This is a cheap and low maintenance plant. Today I'll show you how to grow galangal from store-bought rhizomes.

This post is dedicated to Ash of Houris in the Garden blog. She's a new blogger, hence do visit her blog to give her your encouragement. Her enthusiasm and diligence in maintaining a little "garden by the window" has inspired me to blog on. Sometimes you can see and appreciate many things from a fresh perspective.


2. Galangal seedling
You can grow galangal from a hand of store-bought galangal or from a freshly dug out rhizome from a friend/neighbour's garden.

Freshly dug out rhizomes can be directly planted on the soil. Dig a hole, then cover the rhizome with so soil.
If you have excess galangal in the fridge, do not throw them away. You can grow them into exotic ginger plants with lovely foliage. If you like, you can harvest the rhizomes later for cooking.

Select rhizomes with "eyes" or nodes. New shoots will develop from the eyes. If the hand is too large, you can cut into smaller pieces before planting but each piece must have at least 2 eyes. In Malaysia, the galangal rhizomes can be planted directly on the soil or you can let it stand in a container of water for 1-2 days before planting. You can plant it directly on the ground or in a container. You won't see the roots yet as it will take some time for it to appear. Place it in a shaded location. The soil should be moist but well-drained.

3. Rooted galangal rhizome

The above is a galangal seedling showing the rhizome with shoots and roots. The edible part of the galangal is the rhizome which is a swollen underground stem, not the roots. Hence, it is incorrect to say "ginger root" as it is quite commonly used in culinary recipes.

4. Galangal and lemon grass plants
The above is a clump of galangal plants in my neighbourhood "Garden by the ditch". It is growing under the full sun and planted next to some lemon grass plants. Established plants need little care and maintenance as they are hardy and not susceptible to pest attacks. Water to keep the soil moist and fertilize once a month. Prune off dried leaf stalks.

Galangal rhizomes can be harvested in about 10-12 months, when the plants start to flower. You don't have to uproot the whole plant when harvesting the rhizomes. Just cut enough for your requirements and it will continue to grow back.

5. Galangal foliage
The above is my galangal plant grown form a single seedling. It has not flowered yet but I love their showy, cool-looking foliage. Galangal plants can grow to a height of 3 m tall.

6. A flowering galangal

Do you know how the flowers of galangal look like?

7. Galangal flower buds
Galangal flowers are borne on terminal upright inflorescences.
The leaves, stalks, rhizomes and even seeds have a mild aromatic scent.

8. Galangal flower buds

Scientific name: Alpinia galanga
Synonym: Languas galanga

Common names: Greater Galangal, Thai/Siamese Ginger, Spice Ginger
Chinese name- Blue Ginger (南姜) or 高良姜
Malay name - Lengkuas, Galangal

Family: Zingiberaceae

 Origin: Tropical Asia (India)
Native to Southeast Asia and Indonesia

Category: Rhizomatous perennial
Uses : Medicinal herb and spice.


“How to grow galangal (Alpina galanga) from store bought rhizomes”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ http://www.mynicegarden.com/ on August 25th, 2012.

9. Galangal inflorescence
The flowers are yellowish white in colour. The fruit is small, about 1.25cm diameter and berry-like or pear-shaped. It turns from green to yellow to blood red when mature. Fruits are used in Chinese medicine. The seeds are 3 angled, ash coloured and aromatic. Alpinia galanga has been used as traditional, Aryuvedic medicine in India since 600AD.

Are you growing galangal in your garden?
Do you use galangal in cooking and is so in what dishes?

This is my entry for Fertilizer Friday hosted by Glenda Tootsie Time here.

Updated:
1. In answer to Sean L's question, galangal seeds are used in Chinese medicine for stomach ailments. The link is here, an extract from the book, "Flavor Chemistry: Thirty Years of Progress by Roy Teranishi.

2. Suggested sites for additional reading are (a) GlobinMed site
    and (b) Wikipedia - used in African American medicine and hoodoo magic!

3. Below is picture of how a spouted galangal rhizome look like after soaking in a container of water for a week or so.


The roots have not appeared yet. You can plant it in the soil. Actually in Malaysia, we can plant galangal rhizome directly into the soil. It will root easily.

46 comments:

  1. Lovely plant indeed! So this is what a full-grown galangal plant looks like. I planted a rhizome in the middle of June, and it has indeed sprouted. But now my cats have established a new toilet next to the plant, and they have squashed the new leaves. Oh well. It'll be sometime before I dig those up for food, methinks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mama Pongkey, perhaps your cats love the scent of galangal ;-)

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  2. Replies
    1. Yes, there are seeds inside the fruits.

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  3. I just have seen the Alpinia serumbet or the shell ginger flowers, but i also hear from my mother the word 'langkuas'. We don't use that ginger for cooking though, i think it is used as herbal medicine. I have a few members of the ginger family growing in our yard now, i am monitoring what the flowers will be!

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    Replies
    1. Andrea, I am growing ginger members in my garden too. They are common ginger, torch ginger, turmeric and galangal, all edible gingers. Only my torch ginger has produced flowers at the moment.

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  4. That is a healthy clump of galangal you got there. The seedpods can be used as a cheap substitute for cardamom. I believe the name blue ginger is a mistranslation by Hokkian and Cantonese people, from the Chinese name 南姜, in Hokkian is Lam Kieu, and Lam Keung in Cantonese. The sound for South (nan) is cognate with Lan (蓝 - blue) in the dialect. Thus leads to the mistranslation of the name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sean, I agree with you regarding the Chinese name of blue ginger. I think South ginger is more appropriate as this plant thrives best in the southern region of China. I can't connect any "blueness" with this ginger. In Chinese medicine references, it seems it is called seeds of the "galanga cardamon".

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    2. Ahhh, galangal cardamon, so in Chinese medicine the similarity of the compounds in the galagal fruit to cardamon is recorded. That is interesting. What is it used for in Chinese medicine? I love tom yam strongly flavoured with galangal. Sup ekor for me must have enough galangal, else the smell of beef is a turn-off. Another food that I have used galangal is in the paste for Nonya Acar.

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    3. Sean, it is used in Chinese medicine as a stomach drug. I will update this post with medicinal uses and links.

      I only know that galangal is used in curries and rendang. Thank for the additional information about is culinary uses. It is very helpful indeed.

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  5. I've never seen one. It's an interesting plant. Pretty flowers, too.

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    Replies
    1. Gabby, according to Daves Garden website, galangal is grown in Florida, California, Louisiana, Texas and Virginia in the USA. Perhaps you can find in at Asian grocery stores.

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  6. Such an informative post. I have grown ginger the same way.I too cannot connect blue colour with this galangal.

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    Replies
    1. Lotusleaf, thanks! This plant is easy to grow.

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  7. That plant is totally unknown to me. It's beautiful and it would be interesting to grow, but here in North...

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    Replies
    1. Sadun, I wonder if galangal will survive in Finland, a temperate zone? If you have tried Asian curries, maybe you have tasted galangal before.

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  8. I would have love to plant galangal but it takes up too much room. When I need it for curries and other dishes so I just get it from the supermarket.

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    Replies
    1. Stiletto, galangal can be planted and contained in a big plastic flower pot. When harvesting, it may be necessary to cut up the container. We can get home grown galangal which is 'organic', i.e. free from chemicals and pesticides.

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  9. Thanks for this great information on one of my favorite plants.

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    Replies
    1. Greenearth, I see papaya plants in your garden. Perhaps you can grow galangal too. This ginger can be grown the permaculture way.

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  10. Do you know if we can import ginger rhizomes into Malaysia? I've had success with white ginger lily (hedychium coronarium) and now keen on trying to plant other types of hedychium.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous, perhaps you can do a google search and send an email to the overseas vendors.

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  11. Oh Ms Belle, I'm so flattered for this dedication. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. That explains the increase in traffic for my blog. I've been busy with Raya. So sorry for this late response.
    In fact, I was just about to ask you about growing galangal. You read my mind :) I'm really into growing local herbs now. I've moved english herbs to my back kitchen where it is cooler and no direct sun, just brightness. It's an experiment. Hope it work.
    Thanks again Ms Belle. You have been a big help for me and I will not forget that :)) Wow!! I inspired you??! Really? I thought its the other way round..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ash, yes, really you do! Growing more local herbs is good. Today I learnt how to make mint sauce for my tandoori chicken after watching Jamie Olivier on You-tube. So cute to watch him pull 'a bunch of mint leaves' fresh from the flower pot. You can grow mint leaves from the leftover stalks by sticking them into the soil. Others you can stick and plant are daun kesum, sayur manis, sweet potato leaves and sambung nyawa.

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    2. Great tips Ms Belle, thanks! Mint sauce is my all time favorite, you will love them too. My mint and lemon balm are all gone :(
      Mr Pest, who else. I'm trying to save rosemary by putting it in my backyard.
      Guess what Ms Belle? I planted money plant to ailing herbs and it is showing new shoots now :) Clever ah? LOL!

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  12. my mum grew a long of the Lam keong in Sibu.

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    Replies
    1. Ann, I'm sure your mom is a great cook. My mom planted herbs and vegetables for her culinary uses.

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  13. The fishman is the cook at my house. He uses Ginger (as we call it) frequently in his Chinese cooking and stir-fry. He starts with oil, Garlic, and Ginger, and then adds the protein. Great photos of the plant as an ornamental in its natural setting! And thanks for all the great info!

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    Replies
    1. Beth, fishman is right. In my daily Chinese cooking, I use oil, ginger and garlic as basic ingredients in stir fries. I use the common ginger (Zingiber officinale) most while galangal (Alpinia galanga) and turmeric (Curcurma longa) on certain curry dishes.

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  14. Thanks for the information! I shall plant them in my house! ;)
    They really do have pretty flowers!

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  15. I would love for that to grow and block the view of my neighbors. :)
    It sounds like a great ingredient for cooking as well.
    Thanks for your comment. I missed visiting your nice garden.

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    Replies
    1. Rosey, I miss DungHoe too! I'd be curious to know how galangal ginger will grow in your area ;-)

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  16. I seen this plant along the roadside and never knew that these are Galangal. It was left abandon and the grass cutter comes and shaves of this plant time to time and this plant grows bushy all over again invading the roadside.
    I wonder whether they can be used as substitute for ginger.
    I would suggest not to put any ginger plant in the fridge as they rot faster. Its better to place them in a cool room temperature as they will remain fresher.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. James, like the lemon grass, I have seen people grow galangal in pots and cut off the top leaves sheats while waiting for the rhizomes to develop.

      As I know, galangal's taste is more suitable for curry and tom yam or hot and sour dishes. I don't use it in stir fries. Also galangal rhizom is usually finely chopped before usage.

      By ginger plant, I guess you mean the rhizomes that we use for comming. I store them in their plastic wrapper and use an old newspaper to wrap again before putting into the fridge. It be remain fresh for weeks. Grated rhizomes can be packed in usage sizes and stored in the freezer until needed.

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  17. I googled growing galangal and your site came up. I should have thought about your site before I went to search.

    I purchased a plant last fall and am just now getting around to transplanting it. Thanks for the great information! I knew it would grow quite tall but seeing it in your photos have given me a visual that I needed. Now to find an empty spot to plant it!

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    Replies
    1. Carla, in temperate countries, I have seen people grow them in containers and keep pruning off the lenghty stems. You can dig out a section of the rhizomes for cooking. Also, you can easily overwinter it by moving the pot into a greenhouse or warmer place during the cold months.

      If you want to plant galangal as an ornamental, then it is better to plant it on the ground to display great foliage. This plant is quite well-behaved here in my garden as I don't really need to prune much to control its growth.

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  18. galangal which is called chitharathai in tamil along with dried regular ginger root is made into tea after cooking for sevearl minutes and given for people with cold as a natural remedy in south india. It is a beautiful plant. Hope to find some fresh root here so that I can plant it in my yard.

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  19. Hi .. May i know planting ginger same as planting galangal? Can I plant both close to each other. when will i know is the right time to harvest?

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    Replies
    1. Julia, the method of planting common ginger (Zingiber officinale) is slightly different. It is detailed in my post here:
      http://www.mynicegarden.com/2012/08/how-to-grow-common-ginger-from-store.html

      You can plant common ginger next to galangal. The galangal rhizomes is ready to be harvested about 3 months after planting.

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  20. Hi.. Happy New Year... i was actually looking for how to plant ginger. can i use the same way for ginger?

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    Replies
    1. My post about how to plant ginger:
      http://www.mynicegarden.com/2012/08/how-to-grow-common-ginger-from-store.html

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  21. I finally got some galangal shipped to me from the UK, potted 2 of them, I'm looking at about 8 plants indoors right now because of the harsh North East winter

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    Replies
    1. Amario, I hope by now it is summertime and your galangal plants are doing well. Good Luck!

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  22. I have a Thai soup recipe that lists dried galangal. I have fresh galangal. What is the best way to dry it?

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    Replies
    1. Cal, it is great that you have fresh galangal. We prefer to use fresh galangal in our cooking and dried galangal is only used when fresh galangal is not available. For drying of galangal, you can try dong a google search. I haven't come across any instructional site at the moment. Why use dried galangal when you can have fresh ones? The aroma is so much better, packed with all the nutrients which will be lost in the drying process.

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