Herb to 3m high
Alpinia after Prosper Alpini, Italian botanist, 1553-1616.
Caerulea from Latin caeruleus, dark blue, dark green, cerulean, azure or more particularly, the deep blue of the Mediterranean sky at midday, referring to the colour of the pericarp of the fruit.
The native ginger is an edible perennial herb, and is a good bush tucker plant. The fragrant white flowers are followed by blue berries. The new leaf shoots and berries have a mild ginger flavour and can be used in cooking, or eaten fresh from the plant. It forms a clump to 2 metres tall, and is hardy. Fruits from 1 year onwards.
It grows from an underground rhizome, so the plant can be cut back hard if it looks untidy. Frost will damage the leaves, but it should re-shoot once the danger of frost is over, though hard and prolonged frost could kill the rhizome.
The blue berry can be easily opened and the pith around the seeds eaten. The fruits (10-18mm in diameter) have a brittle shell-like outer coating containing a mass of black seeds surrounded by a white edible pulp that is very scant but pleasantly lemony.
It is a versatile plant used by Indigenous people. A relative of edible ginger, cardamom, turmeric and galangal, native ginger also grows from a spicy underground rhizome and both the young root tips, shoots and the fruits are edible. Indigenous people traditionally ate the roots and shoots and used the tangy flesh around the seeds to encourage salivation while walking through the forest. It is said Indigenous pathways could be detected by the trail of discarded seeds.
The ginger tasting roots were eaten and the flesh from the bright blue fruit. The large leaves were thatched and used to make shelters and to wrap food for cooking.
Being a rainforest understory plant that ideally prefers humus-rich soil, feel free to prepare soil by adding compost and fertilise regularly with organic liquid fertiliser or worm juice for lush new growth. Mulch well before Summer. Will tolerate most soil types including sandy soil.
To harvest roots, dig up rhizomes from the edge of the plant to find the new growing tips. This way you can enjoy the best edible part of the plant without removing it entirely or damaging the plant. Berries can be picked straight from the plant.
NOTE - Living plants must be collected (by appointment) - postage not available