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A hardy, perennial root spice to 1-2 metres tall with long stems and leaves (6cm wide) which shoot directly from the roots called rhizomes. Creamy-white, waxy, orchid like flowers form in clusters. Each flower spike can have over 300 flowers. In its raw form, galangal has a sharp, strong aroma and hot, clean taste with citrusy, piney, earthy aroma, with hints of cedar and soap (saponins) in the flavor; its flavor is a complement to its relative ginger.

Like ginger, the edible parts are the knobbly, orange-brown rhizomes (young rhizomes have a pink hue), usually peeled then sliced or grated, and is used in curries and other Asian dishes.