Alpinia zerumbet: Shell ginger

Family: Zingiberaceae
Common name: Shell ginger, Butterfly ginger, Variegated ginger

Belonging to the same family as Ginger and Turmeric, the leaves of Shell ginger look similar to theirs, but prettier. The leaves are variegated with beautiful green and yellow patterns, making them very popular ornamental plants. They can grow 2-3 meters tall, and produce beautiful white and pink flowers. But the variegated variety is much smaller.

Their flowers grow on long racemes and look like small shells, thus giving the plant its name ‘shell ginger’. Once the flowers open, they are deep yellow with red patterns inside them. Shell ginger roots are rhizomes, which look and smell like that of ginger. The plants spread over an area quickly, growing new plants around the parent plant through rhizomes. Shell ginger plants like rich, moist soil and partial sunlight.

The leaves of shell ginger plants are used for wrapping a traditional Chinese dish made with rice and fillings. It is also used for wrapping rice cakes, steaming rice buns, flavoring noodles and for making herbal tea. This herbal tea increases metabolic rate, reduces inflammation and allergy; prevents hypertension and sudden rises in blood sugar.

Shell ginger plants are said to have anti-oxidant, anti-obesity and anti-ageing properties; and can also expand lifespan by 22% according to recent studies.

Propagation is from rhizomes, and by replanting small plantlets that grow around the parent plants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *