Alpinia galangaFrom the Arabic khalanjan - mild ginger.
Greater Galangal, a native of Java, is a member of the ginger family. This plant is commercially viable, and may be found in many tropical and sub-tropical gardens. This plant has quite beautiful orchid-like blooms on 3 to 4 foot stems. When the plant is several years old it is lifted and the roots are sun-dried to a reddish-brown colour.
The root is used for both cooking and medicine. It tastes like a cross between pepper and ginger, and is used in a wide variety of manners throughout asia and the middle east - it is ground by the Arabs and used as snuff, and to flavour wines and beer, and in India in both perfume and curry recipies. In Thailand it is used as a remedy for stomach ailments. In Europe it was used, during the middle ages, as an aphrodasiac.
Not to be confused with Alpinia officinarum (Lesser Galangal) which is a native of China and is much more popular as an herbal remedy.