Also known as Indonesian galangal because of its origins on the island of Java or by the Latin Alpina Galanga, greater galangal is a large root with an orange-brown skin. Its peeled flesh is pale yellow or white. Greater galangal is the form of galangal most commonly found in the west. It is sold in fresh or powdered form and has a medium to strong flavor and a pine-like aroma.
Ginger and galangal are popular culinary and medicinal root spices. Ginger is an aromatic addition to many eastern dishes as well as the key ingredient in warming teas for colds and digestive problems. Despite its name, which derives from the Arabic for "mild ginger," galangal is a completely different root type. Pinker in color and more peppery in taste than ginger, it is also used in cookery and medicine.
Both root types have different varieties, each with their own subtle differences.
Otherwise known as Alpina Officinarum, or Krachaai Galangal, this form of the galangal root originates in China. A smaller root than Greater galangal, it has a stronger taste which resembles a combination of ginger and pepper. Its flesh is also more fibrous. It is often used as a medicinal rather than a cooking spice in China.
Zingiber Officinale, or common root ginger in the East Indies, it is a perennial root with a hot spicy bite. Its commercial varieties come in either white or black. Black ginger is produced by scalding the root in boiling water before leaving it to dry. White ginger is scraped and dried without the scalding. Other varieties of ginger root include green or immature ginger and preserved ginger which is steeped in syrup.
Aasarum Canadense, or wild ginger, is not related to Zingiber Officinale. Its roots, however, have a similar hot, spicy flavor. Found in North America, Europe and Asia, it grows in woods and by roadsides. Its roots are a yellowish-brown color with white flesh. In taste, it is similar to ginger although it can be slightly bitter. While not popular in cooking, it can be used as a remedy for similar complaints to ginger proper.
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