Australian Ginger: Aboriginal Rainforest Plants Grow Wild in North Queensland.

Australian ginger, or native ginger, is one of the rainforest  plants used traditionally by Aboriginal Australians. It grows wild in the humid coastal areas of North Queensland and also inland on the fertile Atherton Tablelands.

A clumping, perennial, under-storey plant growing up to two metres in height, its dark green, shiny leaves, sometimes with a reddish purple underside, are attractive, as are its small white, shell-like flowers.

Native ginger seeds, North QueenslandWild ginger seeds

But the most distinctive feature, to my mind, are the stunning looking cobalt or cerulean bright blue berries, containing a seed, which form after the small white flowers have fallen.

The lemony tasting flesh around the seeds of this hardy wild ginger is eaten, as are the gingery root tips. New shoots have a mild gingery flavour with rhizomes being similar in taste to the ginger that we buy in supermarkets.

Australian ginger grows easily in home gardens.

Belonging to the zingiberacea family (alpinia caerulea) this rainforest plant currently has little commercial value, apart from its attractiveness as a garden plant. Some nurseries stock the plants or, if you have access to them growing in the wild, they are easily propagated from their underground rhizomes.

Cairns Botanic Gardens has a few healthy specimens growing in their indigenous plant section. If you would like to see these, just ask one of the gardeners/attendants working in the grounds for directions.

The blue ginger, or wild ginger plant grows vigorously, with screening leaves (rather similar in appearance to its cousin, galangal ginger), and is useful to fill in corners of your garden that need little attention, or, for example to hide an ugly fence!

Should you decide to grow this native ginger in your garden you will be able to use all of its parts raw or in cooking as a flavouring spice (seed pods dried and ground, tender shoots), the root tips in stir fries or curries or as a tea.

You may wish to be adventurous and do as the aborigines did, using the tangy flesh around the seeds to encourage salivation and keep mouths moisturised when bush walking. Even better, wrap the leaves around meats and vegetables as you roast them in the oven or barbeque for an extra ‘zing’.

But if you want to just enjoy its attractive ornamental values – why not?

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