How to grow galangal?

Fruit & Vegetable Growing

The following article is a modified transcript from a video I created on how to grow galangal so if you’d rather watch the video instead of reading scroll down to the bottom of the page.

This is my five top tips on how to grow a ton of galangal for some reason I think of the Bonanza theme every time I grow a galangal or harvest it… I don’t know why… am I weird? Let me know in the comment section below!

Galangal rhizome with peeled & cut stem on leaf (image above)

Anyway, let’s get into it, first of all, what is galangal? Well galangal is one of the world’s most used food crops and nobody seems to know about it, well, not many people know about it and if you ask someone in the street “do you know what galangal is?” They probably don’t quite know but I bet they’ve eaten it.

Galangal is a really easy plant to grow and the galangal clump behind me (see image above) is over 2 meters tall! Galangal originates in China and we love growing it in our garden because it’s one of the best ornamental food plants we have here on our property.

Galangal is a spice and it’s related to ginger you might remember my how to grow a ton of ginger video? Well, ginger and galangal are related but they don’t taste at all alike and in fact, they sort of look a bit similar but galangal is a lot more fibrous than ginger.

Galangal is typically used to flavour Asian dishes like in stir-fries or soups mainly in Thai, Laos, and Indonesian foods. In fact, it was our trip to Thailand and Laos in 2016 that really inspired me to start growing galangal here at home and by crikey wasn’t that a good idea because it just grows like crazy and is excellent in all the foods that we love to eat.

Galangal can be used fresh, dried, and ground into a powder but we often just use it straight like it is chopped nice and fine into a dish and cooked up. It has a distinctly medicinal taste that is quite bitter on its own it’s not unpleasant but it really is quite strong and you don’t need much of this to flavour a dish. It’s fairly pungent, but good, especially good as an accompaniment and an addition to flavour foods and bring that food up it really does bring a dish up you sort of don’t know it’s in a dish, however, you tend to notice if it’s missing (if you know what I mean) so it’ll bring up a great Thai or Asian dish from “yeah that’s nice to, wow that is really good what’s in that!? A hint of galangal that’s what…

One thing I forgot to mention in the video (annoyingly) was the galangal flower (image above). It’s not a spectacular flower by any means but it’s still nice and adds to the appeal overall of this excellent food/ornamental plant.

Tip #1 Position

Positioning your galangal in the right spot is vital if you want to get the most out of your crop and to get the best growth out of it galangal is best positioned in full sun. We’ve got it here right in the middle of our vegetable garden (see image above) you will find some writings on the interwebs that state that you should grow galangal in shade or in part shade I totally disagree with that I reckon you should grow it in the sunniest spot possible if you want it as a huge feature plant like this and to get the most out of it.

But yes of course you can grow it in part shade or even some people say in full shade, I don’t think that’s optimal, but if you want to give it a go in full shade go for it what you don’t want to do is grow it in a spot that it will shade out other plants. Now, I think we’ve made a bit of an error by planting it in the middle of our patch because it does tend to grow so huge so what I’m thinking of doing is moving this clump digging it up and moving it to back where my banana trees are or somewhere in that vicinity so it can grow and not shade out other smaller vegetable crops.

Tip #2 Planting

Galangal grows best in a warm climate but it will grow in cooler temperate climates or even cold climates if it’s grown in a protected and warm position.

Use crumbly good free-draining soil with lots of organic matter like compost or even wood chip mixed into the topsoil and protect the young plants with a good layer of mulch on top of that at the time of planting. Galangal will grow quite easily from a rhizome (piece of root) like this (see cover image at top) especially if it has one or two shoots already growing to become new plants.

I got our plants initially online but you can try nurseries or even the markets for a piece of galangal root and then just try growing it. I would start the plant off in spring or summer keeping it well watered until it has established and is growing strongly it’ll grow quite deep underneath the surface of the soil so a good thick layer of topsoil say about a foot deep is perfect and be prepared for it to grow really fast!

We planted our first crop of galangal in December 2016 so in under two years, it grew from three small plants into this huge ton of galangal pretty amazing hey!? And not that I need to, but you might, galangal does really well in pots just make sure when you plant it in a pot you either harvest it or you re-pot up in six months or so to prevent the plant from getting root bound because of its expansion.

Tip #3 Feeding

Before we talk about feeding let’s have a bit of a bonus tip on watering. Galangal will do pretty well in dry weather (it’s very hardy) and I love it because of that – so easy to grow, however, it responds a lot better to watering as long as you’ve got it in free-draining soil give it regular water but don’t let it sit in it.

If your soil is fertile it might not need too much feeding for the first 12 months, but again, it will grow better if given some general food plant fertiliser at least once every year. Galangal does grow all year round but it does have its best growth spurts through the springtime and we’ve just hit spring here now and you can see the extra growth spurts coming through as this is the time of year when it’s starting to come into its best growing season.

What I like to do is give it some fertiliser – a little bit of organic blood and bone sprinkled around the base of the plant and into the clump so you get the inside of the plants as well especially in a big clump like we have. But when you do that, make sure you give it a good watering after to prevent that fertiliser from clumping around the stems of the plant in particular and also into the roots so it prevents the stems getting burnt and then retarding the plant growth and doing the opposite effect of what fertiliser should do.

Tip #4 Harvesting

Galangal won’t tie back like turmeric or ginger so don’t look for die back as a sign for readiness of harvesting rather look for plant growth. I would say at least let your galangal get to a meter high or about 12 months old before you start harvesting and then harvest around the outside of the plant. Sure you can dig the whole thing up and then reassess every year or even plant into a new spot. What we do is harvest around the outside of the plant get some good nice young rhizomes (because they tend to be best in cooking) you can eat them both the older and more rustic are harder and have more fiber so the younger ones tend to be the preferred for us.

Fresh galangal is the best. It’s better than the dried or the bottled stuff from the Asian stores but buying it fresh can be expensive at around 30 bucks a kilogram so growing your own is by far the most economical option.

The whole plant can be eaten but it’s usually grown for its root by digging it up with a fork or a shovel. Galangal can be actually quite hard to pull up once it’s established so be prepared to get your back legs and arms working to get this root out!

Young shoots can be eaten as a vegetable and the stems are also excellent in compost making and are succulent so they’re easy to cut up and really go well when you’re using them in a compost pile especially with dry carbon type matter that needs to add a little bit of extra moisture.

Tip #5 Pests

The good news is that you really don’t have to worry about it too much… Look, let the grasshoppers and a few caterpillars eat some of your crop because there’s plenty to go around and the thing is some of these pests or just about all of them are food for frogs and lizards that love living in this clump of leaves there’s moisture there even pockets of water that small frogs can mate and lay tadpoles in, who knows, but they do love it in there and I have to be careful when I’m harvesting to make sure that I don’t disturb any young frogs or lizards and if I do I put them back in.

So yeah, don’t worry too much about the pests and also accept some imperfections such as rust on leaves and some yellow blemishes or some dieback. If you’re worried that you’ve got a lot of die back or whatever cut it right back and let it grow back out and reshoot and that’ll green it up again, of course, giving it a bit of a feed and some extra water can help a lot too rather than getting a fungicide out or spraying the plant with something like that or a pesticide to think that that’s going to help – that is the opposite of what you should do!

if you find borers getting into the roots or root rot sets in you could try digging it up and cleaning the rhizomes then replanting them into a new fresh garden bed where it hasn’t grown before and this can sometimes give your plants a better environment to grow in and then it can rejuvenate itself. Sometimes the soil in the spot that you’ve placed it in overtime gets a buildup of these soil-borne pests and diseases and sometimes the best thing you can do is just move them on into a nice new spot and leave that spot there rest for a while so that those pests can die out.

Overall, galangal is a really hardy and easy crop to grow so I don’t expect you are going to have too much trouble growing it.

That’s it! Those were my five top tips on how to grow a ton of galangal: Position, Planting, Feeding the plants, Harvesting, Pest & Disease. Do all those things right and you’ll grow a ton of galangal just like I can.

Video on How to grow Galangal

Mark Valencia

Mark is the Founder of Self Sufficient Me – you can read more on our About Page and subscribe to his YouTube Channel here.

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AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE: buy or get emailed when available
GALANGAL GROWING INFORMATION © Frances Michaels
BOTANICAL NAME: Alpinia galanga
COMMON NAMES: Thai ginger; laos; greater galangal; galingale; kha
FAMILY: Zingiberaceae, the ginger family
PLANT DESCRIPTION
Galangal’s native habitat is China (Hainan Island). The name Galangal is derived from the Arabic Khalanjan, perhaps a distortion of a Chinese word meaning ‘mild ginger.’ It is a perennial herb, between one and two metres in height, depending on variety. The leaves are 25-35 cm long, rather narrow blades. The flowers are borne at the top of the plant and are small, white and streaked with deep-red veining. The rhizome resembles ginger in shape but it is much smaller. Some varieties have a dark reddish-brown skin and the interior is nearly white. The rhizomes are tough and difficult to break. It prefers rich, moist soil in a protected, shady position and is drought and frost tender. Frost will damage the leaves but will rarely kill the clump. In a permaculture system it is a useful understorey plant.
USES
The root has been used in Europe as a spice for over a thousand years, it was probably been introduced by Arabian or Greek physicians. The rhizomes have a spicy aroma and a pungent taste somewhere between pepper and ginger, it is often cooked with lemon grass. The rhizomes are used fresh and dried to flavour curries, soup, meat and fish. It is also used in Russia for flavouring vinegar and the liqueur ‘nastoika’. The leaves and young shoots are also edible. In India the oil of galangal is valued in perfumery.
PLANTING DETAILS
Galangal can be planted on ridges, usually about 30 cm apart and with 15-23 cm between plants. The crop is planted by setts (small rhizomes) with one or two buds. Plant in spring, after all danger of frost is past and the soil has warmed up at a depth of 5-10 cm.
HARVEST
Rhizomes can be harvested most of the year. The rhizomes are more tender when they are young and actively growing with a white rather than brown skin. It is possible for the home gardener to just dig carefully at the side of a clump and remove rhizomes as needed rather than harvesting the whole clump.

Galangal Plant Info – Learn About Galangal Plant Care And Usage

What is galangal? Pronounced guh-LANG-guh, galangal (Alpinia galangal) is often mistaken for ginger, although galangal roots are a little bigger and a lot firmer than ginger roots. Native to tropical Asia, galangal is a huge perennial plant grown primarily for its ornamental qualities and underground rhizomes, which are used to flavor a variety of ethnic dishes. What to learn how to grow galangal? Read on.

Galangal Plant Information

Galangal is a tropical plant that grows in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 and above. The plant requires partial shade and moist, fertile, well-drained soil.

Galangal rhizomes, or “hands,” widely available at ethnic supermarkets are ideal for planting. Many gardeners prefer to plant whole rhizomes, but if the rhizomes are too large, cut them into chunks with at least two “eyes.” Keep in mind that larger pieces produce bigger rhizomes at harvest time.

Plant galangal after all danger of frost has passed in early spring, but be careful about planting if the soil is too soggy. Although galangal roots need moist soil, they may rot in cool, soggy conditions. Allow 2 to 5 inches between rhizomes.

Add a few inches of compost or well-rotted manure if soil is poor. An application of a timed-release fertilizer gets growth off to a good start.

The rhizomes will be ready to harvest in early winter, typically ten to 12 months after planting.

Galangal Plant Care

Galangal is a very low maintenance plant. Just water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist but not saturated. The plant also benefits from monthly fertilization, using a general purpose, water-soluble fertilizer.

Leave a few galangal roots in the ground in autumn if you want to continue growing galangal the following spring. Mulch the plant well to protect the roots during the winter months.

How to grow galangal

This root is a spicy little cousin of ginger and a great addition to the garden, especially if you love Thai cooking. Read on to learn about galanga and check out the recipes below.
WORDS: JENNY SOMERVELL

Put a sliver of galangal in your mouth – if you dare – and you’ll experience a curious, sharp, sweet taste on the tongue. Then you’ll feel ‘the burn’, more powerful than ginger. However, the flavour is more complex than ginger. Our Singaporean friend and avid cook Lilian Loh describes it as a ‘clean, peppery bite with pungent spiciness.’ Think mustard rather than ginger, with a shade of lemon, a trace of pine needles and hints of tropical fruits. What she is describing is the flavour of greater galangal (called kha in Thai), one of four types of galangal. It’s used with great relish in Thai cuisine, almost to the exclusion of ginger, and is sometimes known as Thai or Siamese ginger.

In some Thai dishes, galangal is the star performer as in tom kha gai (see page 71) which translates as boiled galangal with chicken. More often it plays a subtle role, complementing rather than dominating the flavour. It is one of the key ingredients, along with other spices and herbs, in Tom Yum soup (my absolute personal favourite) which features the wonderful sweet, sour, salty, spicy combination of mukrat (kaffir) lime, lime juice, chilli, lemongrass and fish sauce. Galangal is an essential ingredient of most curry pastes including Malaysian asam laksa, Cambodian samlor kor ko soup and various Indonesian dishes such as spicy beef rendang. It is often included in seafood dishes as it balances out ‘fishy’ flavours. You can tell galangal is related to ginger by its tall stems and flag-like green leaves. Dig down a bit and you’ll find ginger-like rhizomes just below the surface. But if you are tempted to substitute ginger for galangal in recipes, don’t! When it comes to galangal, only the real thing will do. The distinct peppery flavour is what makes Thai food so distinctive, and nothing beats fresh galangal. But finding the real thing may not be so easy as there is a lot of confusion about what is ‘real’ galangal, and not everything sold as galangal is correct.

FRESH OR DRIED?

How galangal rhizomes are used, either fresh or dried, makes a huge difference to the flavour of a dish. Fresh galangal has a pure, refreshing odour and a mildly spicy flavour. Dried galangal is less fresh and has a more spicy, musky, rooty flavour, something between ginger and cinnamon. When bought as slices and reconstituted in warm water, it is closer to the flavour of the fresh root. In south-east Asia, fresh galangal is usually preferred, and dried is only used when fresh is unavailable. An Indonesian dish using dried galangal is rendang, a spicy beef (or buffalo) stew combining coconut milk, dried chillies, garlic, dried turmeric, ginger, Indonesian bay leaves and galangal. Rendang is famous for its hot, aromatic flavour and soft texture.

GREATER GALANGAL (ALPINA GALANGA)
Galanga or galangale (kah or gah in Thai) is the culinary species widely used throughout the whole of south-east Asia. It is a larger species, growing to a couple of metres in its native habitat, less in temperate climates. The rhizomes are larger too, up to the size of a clenched fist. These produce buds or shoots with a pinkish tinge which resemble young ginger, but the skin is much tougher with dark, ring-like lines, giving the rhizome a segmented appearance. Cut into the rhizome and it is dense and woody, like cutting rope, especially if older. Younger rhizomes can be used without peeling. There are several varieties of galangal. The most common is red galangal, which bears tall panicles of tiny red and white flowers in late summer.

LESSER GALANGAL (ALPINIA OFFICINARUM SYN LANGUAS OFFICIANARUM)
The name lesser galangal has been applied to A. officinarum and more often Kaempferia galangal.
A. officinarum is a native of China and is used extensively in South China. The rhizomes have a dark reddish-brown skin, a near-white interior, are 3-10cm long, and rarely over 2cm thick. They are stronger in odour and taste than greater galangal. Lesser galangal’s culinary use is restricted to a few indigenous cuisines, mainly within the Malay peoples in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is essential in the spicy-sweet food of Javanese cuisine, and shines in Balinese dishes, such as the famous Balinese roast duck (bebek betula). In China, especially the Sichuan province, it is referred to as sand ginger or sha jiang and is always used dried.

While greater galangal is superior in flavour, lesser galangal has the higher concentration of galangin (formerly called galangol or alpinol) and its many health benefits. It has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries throughout Asia and Europe in the Middle Ages and has a warm, stimulating effect on digestion, rather like ginger. It has been used as a remedy for nausea (including sea sickness), indigestion, poor circulation, rheumatism and to tone the tissues.

CHINESE KEYS (BOESENBERGIA ROTUNDA)
Another species, Chinese keys, is not closely related to galangal but is closer to lesser galangal in taste. It is named for the finger or key-like configuration of the roots. Chinese Keys is used in the famous jungle curries and spicy salads of Northern Thailand. Whether you use it in cooking or not, it is a handsome conservatory plant forming dense clumps of very wide leaves and showy pink orchid-like flowers. It is hardier than true galangal.

HOW TO GROW GALANGAL

Galangal is a subtropical plant and likes lots of warmth, full sun, and a very rich soil, high in organic matter. Treat it rather like sweet corn: high nitrogen, frequent liquid feeds with seaweed or worm wee, and regular and deep watering throughout the growing season (but not in winter). Galangal can readily be grown in frost-free areas, where it is usually evergreen. However, it is hardier than ginger so it can be grown in frosty areas if it gets protection from winter frost and you give it as much warmth as possible.

Here in the South Island, just north of Christchurch, my plant dies back over winter. I treat it the same as my mukrat (kaffir) lime, growing in it a large pot and bringing it indoors when it’s cold. I keep it quite dry over winter as the rhizomes are prone to rotting when not actively growing. Extra winter drainage such as stones in the base of the pot will help. Galangal works well as a conservatory or greenhouse plant. It has few pests other than the usual greenhouse opportunists such as aphid and mealy bug. A fresh rhizome, placed in a dark place for a few weeks, will grow a bud. Plant the rhizome just below the soil level and keep warm and moist. In a few weeks shoots and roots will grow and the galangal will be away.

I was delighted to receive a greater galangal plant as a gift. I divided it so I could rotate harvest between two plants and divide at different times. Harvesting rhizomes is not difficult. You only need a little at a time and fresh is best, plus it’s very satisfying: simply dig into the loose potting mix and snap a piece off the outside of the clump. Wash and trim away any rotten, bruised or woody parts. Slice or grate as your recipe requires, and enjoy the pungent, inimitable, richly resinous aroma. It will put your Asian cooking in a class of its own. A reliable source of galangal is Russell Fransham’s subtropical nursery: www.subtropical.co.nz

RECIPE: CHICKEN LAKSA
INGREDIENTS

10g/1 thumb-sized piece of turmeric
or ½ tbsp turmeric powder
20g/10 slices galangal
5 -10 dried chillies
15g candlenuts or macadamia nuts
10g/1 tbsp shrimp paste
120g shallots, or 100g onion and 20g garlic
1 tbsp ground coriander powder
15g/2 stalks lemongrass, sliced, whites only
5 tbsp oil
1.2 litre coconut milk
2 tsp salt or to taste
1 tbsp sugar
4-5 tbsp fish sauce to taste
4-6 chicken thighs
250ml coconut cream
600-800g rice vermicelli
10 Vietnamese mint (laksa) leaves, julienned
Optional: 200g cucumber, finely shredded and soaked in cold water,
2-3 hard boiled eggs, halved,
600g bean sprouts, blanched

METHOD

De-seed and soak the chillies in 100ml of water for 15-30 minutes; five chillies is mild, 10 is for the more adventurous. Add all the spice mix ingredients to a bowl, including the water from soaking the chillies, and grind into a paste. Fry the spice mix in oil on medium heat until it thickens and darkens slightly but do not burn the spices. Add the coconut milk, salt, sugar, fish sauce and chicken and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Stir in the coconut cream to thicken. Blanch the rice vermicelli and bean sprouts. To serve, put the blanched rice vermicelli in a bowl topped with bean sprouts, chicken, half a hard-boiled egg and some julienned cucumber. Pour over the sauce and sprinkle with Vietnamese mint.

RECIPE: TOM KHA GAI

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

600g chicken thighs, skinned, bone in
600ml water
500ml coconut milk
25g fresh galangal, sliced
2 mukrat (kaffir) lime leaves
1 stalk lemongrass
1-4 Thai chillies, bruised
½ cup coriander leaves/stalk/root
1 carrot, sliced
80g mushrooms (button, portabello,
straw and/or oyster)
7 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp palm sugar
1 stalk spring onion, sliced
100ml lemon or lime juice
METHOD

Put the cold water, chicken thighs, galangal, lemongrass, mukrat lime leaves, chilli, coriander stalks and roots, and sliced carrot in a pot and bring to the boil. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, palm sugar and mushrooms. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked. To serve, add 2-3 tbsp lemon or lime juice in a bowl. Ladle the chicken, vegetables and soup into the bowl, then serve with hot rice and garnish with coriander leaves.

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This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine. Discuss This Article

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