This is a tricky one as I haven’t yet properly identified it. Perhaps you can help? I took this picture at Papillote Gardens in Dominica. The tag read, “amomum cardamomum”, but both are actually words for cardamom and together do not make a botanical name. It was definitely a type of cardamom or at the very least, something in the ginger family. It turns out that there are a lot more ginger family plants than I ever imagined so my claim to knowledge in this area is forever humbled.
My best guess is that this is some kind of black cardamom (Amomum subulatum) or Amomum subulatum fresh off the plant. I have searched high and low but have been unable to find a photo of the plant with fresh pods to confirm its identification. My other thought is that it could be some kind of related, inferior (or false) cardamom that I’ve never heard of.
And so I put it out to you. What do you think it is?
As Davin was holding the open pod, the purple colour staining his skin (which I might add he picked and opened without encouragement from me) he kept saying, “I hope this isn’t poisonous.” I suggested that if there was any doubt, he should wash his hand immediately and refrain from sticking it in his mouth anytime soon. And then, you know, hope that skin contact doesn’t act as a good delivery system for this particular poison. Two months later he is still alive so apparently it wasn’t.
The life of a botanical hand model is wrought with peril.
UPDATE: Polly Pattullo of Papillote Press (who also happens to live nearby to the garden where this photo was taken) has updated me to say that the plant was identified as Renealmia alpinia, a common member of the Ginger Family (Zingiberaceae). Apparently, the leaves are used for cooking fish, and she has been pounding the seeds and roasting for use in cooking.
This is a long one. I suggest you make a cup of tea and a snack before starting.
“And now listen carefully. You in others-this is your soul. This is what you are. This is what your consciousness has breathed and lived on and enjoyed throughout your life-your soul, your immortality, your life in others. And what now? You have always been in others and you will remain in others. And what does it matter to you if later on that is called your memory? This will be you-the you that enters the future and becomes a part of it.”
- Boris Pasternak (Doctor Zhivago)
Back in December 2009 my partner Davin and I took a month long trip to the Caribbean. We spent 4 days in Barbados, 3 weeks in Dominica, and one week in St. Lucia. Since that time I have posted on and off here with photos and short stories depicting my botanical experiences through that month. There are still so many gardening and plant related stories left to tell. Every single day was loaded with new plants, flowers, food, sights, and sounds. We went on hikes into the rain forest, up mountains, and to a Boiling Lake. We got to see a place that felt like witnessing the birth of the world. We stayed on an organic food farm and picked ginger flowers that would be made into centerpieces for rich people. We visited an organic farm that specializes in traditional herbal medicine. We went inside an ocean-side cave. We touched walls covered in more ferns than I have ever seen in my life. We walked among grasses and cacti. We saw plants I will probably never be able to identify. We spoke with humble gardeners, visited massive backyard farms, and met an incredible 99 year old woman. We found new friends to whom I feel a great deal of gratitude. It was pretty much awesome.
As you can see I have barely scratched the surface here and hope to get a chance to tell you some of these stories over time.
I first came upon this incredibly strange ginger (Zingiber spectabile) while touring a wonderful garden and wilderness retreat in Dominica called Papillote.
I thought I’d post a sunny photo today since we’ve been living under grey skies all week and I’m about to collapse into a no-sun, low-energy coma. Although, scrolling through folders of photos of us frolicking in the Caribbean a few months ago is kind of miserable in its own way.
I took this photo on the first of a short four-day stay in Barbados, where I saw lots of wonderfully fragrant fragipani (Plumeria) trees in bloom. If you have never smelled a real frangipani bloom I hope you get the chance someday. They are extremely sweet, soft and rich. For many they epitomize tropical floral fragrance.
We walked for miles through the countryside on that first day trying to see as much as we could. It’s a good thing I soaked it all in while I had the chance because I don’t believe I saw a single frangipani through the following three weeks. Frangipani plants do not like their roots to be waterlogged. Barbados has a MUCH drier climate than Dominica so I figure that has got to be the reason.
Here’s a link to the photo and story of the very first frangipani plant I had a chance to see and smell, ten years ago.
On our last day of the trip, our friend David in St. Lucia picked some red, ripe coffee beans (aka cherries) off of the Arabica bush, one for each of us, and instructed us to bite through the thick skin with our teeth.
Next, he said, remove the beans and put them in your mouth, but don’t bite them.
We were all surprised to discover that the thin layer of pulp covering the bean had a sweet, citrus taste, not unlike the delicious fruit that covers the fresh cacao beans! Who knew? My mind was blown.
This is one of the things I cherish most about that trip. We experienced new tastes and delightful discoveries nearly everyday. And some days were bursting with more than my brain could take in.
I think I’ll go make myself a cappuccino now.