A most unusual ginger, the Zingiber zerumber, or pinecone or shampoo ginger, begins with broad green leaves that reach about four feet tall as they unfurl in the spring. Then in July, their rhizomes shoot up like stems and add bright green pods, looking like pinecones but feeling like leather. Small flowers begin to appear from each bract-like protrusion on the pod. Finally, the pod turns a bright red. After that, a squeeze of the pod yields a clear gel that is used as an ingredient in shampoo. Their beauty makes them worth the trouble of finding a partially shaded spot where these plants can be contained, as they can be invasive. Unlike others, pinecone ginger rhizomes are usually too bitter to eat.
- Carol Williams