Friday, March 11, 2016

Tropical Favorites


Some favorite tropical fruits, spices and flowers all belong to the same plant order known as the Zingiberales. They include banana, ginger, cardamom, turmeric and the beautiful heliconia flowers.

Banana, sometimes referred to as a tree or palm, is actually an herbaceous plant since the trunk or stems do not contain lignin. Lignin is the substance that makes wood, woody.  

Ginger originates from Southeast Asia and is unknown in the wild but has been cultivated since ancient times. Ginger was introduced into Europe from China and introduced into Mexico and the Caribbean by the Spaniards. Today it is widely used in local medicines in India and the Far East. China and India are the largest producers of ginger.   

Cardamom is native to India. The dried fruits are used in medicine and as a spice.  Cardamom seeds, which have a pleasant aroma, are used in curries and breads.   

Turmeric, or olena as it is called in the Hawaiian language, comes from the root of Curcuma domestica; it is an important ingredient in curry powders.  Turmeric has been gaining recognition as an anti-inflammatory herbal remedy. Preliminary findings suggest that a chemical found in turmeric called curcumin may have carcinogenic retarding properties but these findings have not been confirmed. With its bright yellow color, turmeric is also used as a fabric dye. This species is unknown in the wild; it is sterile and does not produce fruit. Turmeric is also known as Indian saffron. 


Lastly, in the plant order Zingiberales there are over 100 different species of heliconia flowers.  They produce some of the most beautiful and commercially important flowers for both potted plants and bouquets. Heliconias require high temperatures, humidity and light intensity.  In the wild they grow mainly in forest clearings. The Bird of Paradise, which is the national flower of South Africa, is also in this group.