I love Thai cuisine and I love to cook it. Greater galangal is a basic ingredient in Thai food and is sometimes referred to as “Thai ginger”. I always see the gnarly galangal rhizomes in the freezer in Thai markets. I’m so thrilled that I am able to grow it in my own yard. The plant in the picture above is about two years old and is about six feet high. I expected the worst for this tropical ginger with the freezing temperatures we experienced this winter in zone 9b. I didn’t expect this beautiful plant to survive, but I haven’t even had to cut it back . It has some browning around the edges of the leaves and that’s it. It did have some protection from frost with the overhang of the house, but it’s planted in a spot that gets really cold. I am in love with this plant.
Greater galangal (Alpinia galanga) is in the ginger family and is an edible ginger. Galangal has been popular since the middle ages. It is especially wonderful for indigestion. It is also used to alleviate nausea, colds, flu, fever, bad breath, diarrhea, and poor blood circulation. I have also heard that it removes toxins from the body. In Southeast Asia, a tonic is made from a mixture of galangal and lime juice. Russia uses it to make liqueurs and India uses it to perfume deodorant. I like to slice mine into big chunks and make “galangal limeade”. A little goes a long way. I harvest mine the same way I harvest my other edible gingers. I dig my knife into the soil and cut off chunks so as not to harm the growth of the plant.
As far as flavor goes, it has its own unique flavor. It is spicy like ginger, but it is sweeter and more aromatic in my opinion. The rhizome is very firm and white on the inside. I have been harvesting mine while they are still young and I like them that way. I have heard that some people harvest the rhizomes when they are mature at about 4-5 years of age. The plants can be started from a fresh rhizome the same way as the other edible gingers and thrives in the shade. I’ve seen the fresh rhizomes in a few Asian markets. Greater galangal is a lovely plant and produces sweet, orchid-like flowers.
I have another type of galangal growing in my yard as well. It’s called lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum). I will write a separate post on that one and include pictures of the harvested rhizomes from both of my galangal plants. The harvested rhizomes from all the edible gingers freeze well. The whole rhizome can be kept in the freezer for up to a year in a ziplock bag. There is no need to slice it up or peel it before you freeze it. When we need fresh ginger, we just grate off what we need with a grater, peeling and all, then return the rest to the freezer.
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