A morning distraction
Seeing the flowers of the shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet, Zingiberaceae) by chance is not fair. You might be busy and suddenly you pass a hotness whose attraction force is so strong you may very well cause a traffic accident. Luckily I was just walking towards the lab.
This heartbreaker is native to Southeast Asia and grows easily here in Chiang Mai. At Dokmai Garden we keep it between the white wall and the arbour, facing north, providing shade most of the time. The soil is probably a bit too hard and clayey (‘din dam’ often refers to river sediment) but with heavy mulching that will change over the years.
Although this is a fantastic ornamental, you can eat the rhizome like that of galanga (Alpinia galanga). The flowers of the shell ginger have a much milder bite than the peppery galanga flowers, so if you wish to make an imperial jungle salad, use the flowers of shell ginger as garnish.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell