Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Plants identified

Previously I questioned the identity of some plants that are planted by NParks along the road, at the new campsite near the Ubin Jetty.

I asked some trained botanists, Cheng Puay and Adrian, seeing how they are both teachers and a teacher of mine at some point.

As expected, my biologically-untrained eyes resulted in me making a big mistake in assuming that the maize-like plant is the plant which the "beads" came from, since I never really saw my father pick them off the plant ahead of me. Turns out they are two different plants!

This plant (above) is identified by the two botanists as being the "rojak ginger" or Torch Ginger, Etlingera elatior. Interestingly, this plant was also used during our Kampong Cooking Class. We were told that it exist deep within the forest and we were not going to venture inside as it was deep within. Thus, although we do not actually see it, we were told it was there. I suppose once these roadside counterparts mature, we would see many culinary lovers trying to get some free ingredients by the roadside! However, please be warned that I am sure picking NParks' plants is surely an offense. As the saying go, "take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints".

The torch ginger flower bud commonly used in cooking. Illustration taken from the Asia Food Glossary Page Thanks to MrBudak for the correction.

To answer our question about its origin, according to this United States Department of Agriculture website, the torch ginger is native to these areas:
Indonesia [possibly native]; Malaysia [possibly native]; Philippines. At the same time it is also widely cultivated in tropics.

On the other hand, these beads (above) are actually from another plant called Coix lachryma-jobi or Job's Tears. I suppose that explains the lachryma-jobi part of its latin name! It's other common name includes Pearl barley and more.

Seeds from the Coix lachryma-jobi. Photo taken from hear.org

Again, the origin has some roots in the Malay archipelago. In fact, it is rather widespread and distribution includes China, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Philippines. Interestingly, this plant has also been widely naturalized in tropics [source] and is used in many countries and cultures as a medicinal plant.


budak said...

It's the flower bud of the Etlingera that's used in rojak. The mature plant grows pretty big, reaching about 5 m. There are quite a few ginger species in the jungles here: Globbas, Zingiber, Etlingera....

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