Crepe Ginger - Cheilocostus speciosus
September 30, 2019

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CREPE GINGER, Cheilocostus speciosus (synonym Costus speciosus) is native to the Indo-Malaysian region.
EDIBLE PETALS: This strikingly beautiful species yields edible petals. Some references state that the red, hard calyx is also edible but I disagree, it is way too hard. Good luck twisting the petals from the calyx, it takes some practice to do so without breaking the petals. The flavor of the white petals is so-so and best tossed into a salad mix in my opinion. Look inside each flower before eating and give it a blow to remove any ants that hang out in them. Most of my friends prefer to eat the spiral gingers that have crispy (often citrusy) tubuar flowers instead of the crepe-like flowers (broad spreading labellums) like this species has.
LACERUS IS SIMILAR: Some folks have confused this commonly grown species with the rarely grown Cheilocostus lacerus. As the spiral ginger wizard Dave Skinner writes so precisely, "This Costus is frequently confused with Costus lacerus, many plants being incorrectly identified as Costus speciosus. Maas (one of the world's great botanists) points out that they are easily distinguished as Costus speciosus has pointed (pungent) bracts wheras (with) Costus lacerus the apex of the bract delacerate quickly into fibers, as to the bracteoles and calyx."
OTHER EDIBLE PARTS EATEN IN ASIA: “The young, tender leafy shoots and young leaves are eaten as vegetables. The tender shoots when boiled in coconut milk make a good vegetable (Burkill, 1966). In Sarawak, they are fried with anchovies and “belachan” (Voon et al. 1988; Voon and Kuch, 1999). The outer part of the stem is peeled before cooking. The flowers are edible (Chan, 1988) in salad or as garnish.” The “rhizome is edible (Burkill, 1966) and (is) used after cooking and are (also) used for making syrup and the young shoots are used as vegetable by tribals (Singh, 2011). The rhizome is cooked in curries with salt, chili, tamarind and turmeric powder and the stem crushed to yield a juice by the tribal communities in the Parambikilam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerela, India (Yesodharan and Sujana, 2007). The “edible shoots” are eaten in Borneo.
Kemuk or Keumul (Bengali).
Keukand (Hindi).
Thebu (Sinhala/Sri Lanka).
Pushkarmula (Marathi and Sanskrit).
Jom Lakhuti (Assamese).
Kostam (Tamil).
Kust (Hindi).
There are dozens more names for it in India.
Quste Talkh (Arabic).
Zhang Liu Tou (Chinese).
I GROW IT: I am also growing lacerus here at Bamboo Grove by the way.
MEDICINAL COMPOUNDS: This list of phyto chemicals within the common Crepe Ginger is really fascinating and for you herbalists out there, do some online research if you are so inclined, you will be amazed. For example, "the diosgenin content up to 3.37% in the rhizome has been reported." It also contains medicinal eremanthin and tigogenin.