Alpinia officinarum, known as lesser galangal, is a plant in the ginger family, cultivated in Southeast Asia. It originated in China, where its name ultimately derives. It can grow several feet high, with long leaves and reddish-white flowers. The rhizomes, known as galangal, are valued for their spicy flavor and aromatic scent. These are used throughout Asia in curry and perfume production and were previously used widely in Europe. They are also used as an herbal remedy.
The galangal rhizomes were widely used in ancient and medieval Europe, where they were reputed to smell of roses and taste of spice. Its use in Europe has dramatically declined, however, and is now mainly used in Eastern Europe. It is used in Russia for flavoring vinegar and the liqueur Nastoika. It is still used as a spice and medicine in Lithuania and Estonia.
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