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The Tropical Spice Trio – Ginger, Galangal and Turmeric

ginger, galangal and turmeric

Aren’t they pretty?  I was picking for an Indonesian style curry – ginger, galangal, turmeric, lemon grass, chili, Vietnamese mint (and I added  – Kaffir lime leaves and garlic as well) and I couldn’t resist the photo.  Add this spice base to an oily sauce and you have a wonderful curry sauce for fish or meat or poultry or vegetables.  Traditionally coconut milk is used for the creaminess, but that’s a bit out of my climate range and I avoid cans except for special occasions. I use the also traditional candlenuts or the less traditional macadamia nuts or cashews, or yoghurt, or just an extra splash of a nice flavoured oil  in place of coconut milk to give the sauce its creaminess.

In my subtropical climate, all these grow easily. The ginger and turmeric die right back over winter, so much so that I have to mark where they are or I lose them.  They re-sprout as soon as the weather gets warm and wet enough.  I had to try out a few varieties of ginger to find one that worked, but now it is well established and comes back every year.  They just like warmth and water. The Bishops Crown chilis are a medium hot chili growing on a short-lived perennial bush about 1.5 metres tall.  They are fruit fly prone, but so prolific the fruit flies can have most of them, and the chooks just get an extra protein source.  The lemon grass is a perennial clumping grass. I have to split the clumps every year or two or it outgrows itself.  The Vietnamese mint is a very hardy perennial running herb.  It runs, but not too far, so it doesn’t become a pest. It needs a severe pruning back every year too, or it outgrows itself.  The kaffir lime is a small citrus tree, suited to pot growing if you don’t have a lot of room.

The whole set is very nicely suited to a small garden in the subtropics, and perennial herbs and spices like this mean you can magic dinner out of  a fridge that is pretty well empty.


{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Africanaussie February 21, 2013, 4:51 pm

    I am amazed that you can grow those tropical plants way down there in NSW. You must have an amazing climate. I am just reading your book The Permaculture Home Garden, and loving it. I see that you lived and gardened in Darwin at one time.

  • Linda February 21, 2013, 5:08 pm

    A long time ago now, Africanaussie. I’ve lived here for over 30 years now, since my mid-20s and I’m 55 now. I’m in far northern NSW, only about 30 km as the crow flies from the Queensland border. And quite high – about 300 metres above sea level, so my garden is pretty well out of frost range. It means I can create microclimates that are quite subtropical.

  • Marijke February 21, 2013, 6:38 pm

    For a lover of cooking, nothing as nice as to go “shopping” in your own garden for a very fancy evening meal. It’s makes cooking a lot easier and more pleasurable.
    We’re a bit further south in Grafton, our hill doesn’t get frost either, which makes for very fancy curry ingredients.

  • Liz February 21, 2013, 10:10 pm

    Whilst I can grow turmeric and ginger (albeit not nearly as well as you can) I’ve yet to get galangal to grow. I wil keep trying though as I do like the idea of a curry paste in the back garden.

  • narf7 February 22, 2013, 5:37 am

    Last year I bought 2 cardamom plants from a small nursery in Northern Tasmania in an area that gets heavy frosts most of winter. The plants in the nursery are hardy and survive including the cardamom! I was most surprised and bought 2 (at $2 a pot, what’s not to love!) and they did, indeed, survive (although I have them in my glasshouse 😉 ) and I bought some organic turmeric from a local health food shop and it has grown amazingly well (in the same glasshouse)…I am going to do an experiment with these amazing ingredients. I grew lemongrass at my daughters house in Launceston (prone to very heavy frosts) and it grew ok, but not great. Ginger grew, but died over winter last year so it’s going to be a full on experiment in the glasshouse this year 🙂

  • Linda February 22, 2013, 8:20 am

    I would so love to hear how you get on, and I’ve had a couple of emails about this from people in colder climates than mine, so I think there’s a few people very interested in this experiment.

  • Vanessa February 22, 2013, 7:06 pm

    Hi Linda, I love these spices for their ornamental value as much as their flavour in the kitchen. I’ve been growing turmeric and galangal for a while now and I love the flowers – so beautiful! It’s my first year growing ginger so I’m yet to see how good a crop I get. That recipe base sounds easy so I’ll have to give it a try some time.

    Love that you can make a dinner when the fridge is empty! It really shows that you grow so much of what you eat.

  • Linda February 22, 2013, 7:17 pm

    Me too Vanessa. I have a turmeric flowering now and took some photos today, that I’ll post as soon as I get to it. The most gorgeous flowers.

  • Jeni February 23, 2013, 3:22 am

    Our Tumeric flowers are just coming into bloom too, they really are stunning 🙂

    (we are just north of Nimbin)

  • sandie July 2, 2014, 4:12 pm

    Hi, I am hoping that you can give me some advice. I am trying to get turmeric and ginger tubers in Tasmania. Do you know where I may purchase some please?
    I live near Burnie. Regards, Sandie

  • Linda July 2, 2014, 5:35 pm

    Hi Sandie, you will have to create a real tropical microclimate somehow to get turmeric and ginger to grow in Tassie. I would think it would need a hothouse or similar. But if you have the right situation, I could send you some turmeric. You should be able to get ginger in the supermarket and it will grow.

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