Viola Herb of the Year

Ginger is the Herb of the Year for 2023 – and deservedly so! Hot and spicy with a warm tinge of sweetness, it is key to classic Asian stir fries, soups, and curries, and widely used in baking and beverages. Who has not devoured freshly baked gingerbread cookies or savoured a cold ginger ale on a hot summer day

More than 2,500 years ago the Chinese philosopher Confucius insisted on having ginger with every meal as an aid for digestion. Traders plying the trade routes between India and Europe brought ginger to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, who used it to season boiled meats. It seems wherever ginger went it was enthusiastically embraced and incorporated into the local cuisine. One wonders too if the romantic arts had something to do with its early popularity because ginger is known to freshen the breath by supplying an enzyme that breaks down foul-smelling substances in the mouth.

But ginger is not just the familiar rhizome used in cooking, baking, and beverages: it is a large family of plants – the Zingiberaceae – that includes other spicy staples of the kitchen such as cardamom, turmeric and galangal – and many more useful but lesser known plants.

Common among the gingers is a hot pungent effect on the tongue and in the nose. Chemicals called gingerols are mainly responsible, and these same gingerols have potent anti- inflammatory, antifungal, and anticancer effects, and are known to protect nerves and the digestive system. It’s no wonder that gingers in one form or another are consumed daily by billions around the world.

All gingers are from the tropics. With some effort they can be grown in containers indoors or outdoors in summer. Their lush foliage, spectacular flowers, and spicy scents are well worth the effort. Why not try a few this year? Below are some of the most important and most loved ginger varieties available from Richters.

Here are the currently available varieties of ginger!


One of the oldest known and most widely consumed spices. In the East the fresh roots are prominent in savoury dishes of meat, poultry and fish, while in the West ground dried ginger is a traditional baking and pudding spice. The Chinese have long recognized its potent stimulating and digestive properties; even today it is still the best home remedy for flatulence, nausea, nervous diarrhea, indigestion and dysentery. Order it now!

Cardamom Ginger

(False cardamom; Dwarf cardamom; Shellflower) Often sold as true cardamom but it is actually a type of ginger with a cardamom scent. While it sometimes flowers and sets seeds in warm tropical conditions, the seeds are not edible like true cardamom. However the strongly scented glossy leaves are edible and can be used like a wrap to flavour food. Try them in tea and in sweet desserts such as rice pudding. When they appear the beautiful porcelain-like flowers are also edible. The rhizomes and leaves are used in traditional medicine for high blood pressure, ulcers, fungal infections, flu and headache, and as a diuretic. A popular landscaping plant in Australia where it forms dense masses of lush fragrant foliage. Also makes a nice easy-to-grow indoor foliage plant. Order it now!

Shell Ginger

(Variegated ginger; Pink porcelain lily) With its large green and gold leaves this is a popular ornamental house plant and an outdoor landscaping plant in warm areas. The rhizomes are widely used in East Asia as a substitute for galangal and ginger and in medicine. In China and Japan the leaves are used to wrap rice or fish for cooking. In Brazil it is one of the most important folk medicines for rheumatism, heart disease, hypertension, and as a diuretic. In the Philippines the leaves are used for fevers and the rhizomes are used to treat dyspepsia, flatulence, vomiting, diarrhea and malaria. The rhizomes have sedative properties owing to the same kavalactones found in kava. Called "shell ginger" because the flowers appearing in the second year resemble sea shells. Order it now!


(Lesser galangal) Used in Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian cooking, galangal is very aromatic, with a spicy, peppery taste. It is indigenous to Southeast China and Indochina and is today cultivated extensively in West Bengal, Assam and the Eastern Himilayas. Roots and rhizomes are used in China to relieve swelling, tonify the circulatory system, and ease digestive pain. Recent research has supported its traditional uses. Interestingly, a compound found in the root has the ability to kill bacteria without damaging nearby healthy cells, an important finding that could lead to new antibiotic medicines that work without unwanted side effects. Order it now!


Gorgeous golden rhizome with a familiar pleasantly bitter taste tempered by peppery, citrusy notes. Essential in south Asian cuisine, especially curry powders. Works well in combination with other spices, amplifying and complementing their flavours into a compelling whole. It famously gives American prepared mustards their distinctive bright yellow colour. It is used both fresh and dried. Fresh rhizomes can be freshly grated and added to dishes. The dried form of the spice is prepared by first boiling the roots and then drying them in the sun. Boiling gelatinizes the starch in the rhizomes and increases the bioavailability of curcumin. Curcumin is mainly responsible for the powerful, almost legendary anti-inlammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric. Curcumin is also known to improve brain function, relieve pain, and stabilize blood sugar. Order it now!

The Herb of the Year for 2022 was Viola!

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