Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Zingiber Zerumbet!?

What is this interesting plant you ask? It's a pinecone ginger and it can grow to about 6-7 ft tall with long narrow leaves arranging oppositely along the stem. Ours tend to bloom starting mid to late summer, separate stalks grow out of the ground with green cone-shaped bracts that resemble pinecones. The cone turns red over a couple of weeks and then small creamy yellow flowers appear on the cone. From afar, the flowers actually look like tiny butterflies resting.
The Pinecone Ginger is an easy-to-grow pass-along plant that will make a large clump from a single rhizome in a couple of years. It grows easily, provided sufficient moisture and fertile soil. Just ask my neighbors. As a "hi, I just moved to the neighborhood gift" we gave lots of rhizomes away. Several years later, most of us now have too much of this stuff growing everywhere. I've been living here for 5 years (time sure does fly) and we have an abundance of Shampoo Ginger every year. One year my mom and I even threw a bucketful in the trash, but to no avail. Don't misunderstand me, it's not necessarily a nuisance. Just have a plan when you plant it. In other words, make sure that where you plant it is where you really want it to be... year after year or until you remove every rhizome in sight. For from one rhizome grows a bouquet of pinecones. Again, it makes an excellent fast-growing landscape plant for tropical effect, and the cone shaped flowers are long-lasting and useful for cut flower arrangements.

Last year, I realized that all along I have been growing a very essential plant.  It is a plant of many uses.  It really is used as a shampoo in Asia and Hawaii, and as an ingredient in several commercial shampoos sold around the world. Actually, chances are if the cosmetic product you're using has ginger listed as an ingredient, it's probably an extraction from the pinecone ginger. Traditionally, shampoo ginger was used as medicine for sprains, indigestion and other ailments. The root was ground with a stone mortar and pestle, and the pulp was placed in a cloth and loosely bound around the injured area. To ease a stomach ache, the ground and strained root material was mixed with water and drunk. For a toothache or a cavity, it was cooked, softened and pressed into the hollow and left for as long as was needed. These are all pics of my latest 'harvest' (actually, taken today). The last pic shows me actually squeezing a cone. I love to use this to wash my locs as its naturally sudsy and smells great, too. It, also, soothed my sunburn last summer and occasionally I tend to use it as a pre-body wash.

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