Temu Ireng Ginger
Inventory, lb : 0
Temu Ireng is a flowering plant comprised of elongated, lanceolate-shaped, ridged leaves, 31 to 84 centimeters in length, with a single stalk emerging from the center. The stalk is topped with green bracts encasing pink to purple-red flowers splashed with yellow tones. The plant also grows large underground clusters of rhizomes, showcasing a central, cylindrical to oval root, averaging 8 to 10 centimeters in length and 2 to 5 centimeters in diameter, with several irregularly shaped offshoots extending from the central rhizome. The skin is rough, flaky, and tough, showcasing variegated hues of tan, brown, to dark brown with nodes, rings, and bumps. Underneath the surface, the flesh ranges in color from golden yellow, yellow-green, to a grey-green hue with a blue tint, depending on the size of the rhizome and cultivation. The flesh is firm, dense, moist, and fibrous with a chewy, snap-like consistency. Temu Ireng releases a robustly earthy, somewhat grassy aroma and has a very bitter flavor. The rhizomes are not commonly consumed in culinary preparations and are mainly used for medicinal purposes, their flavor subdued by sweeter ingredients.
Temu Ireng is available year-round.
Temu Ireng, botanically classified as Curcuma aeruginosa, is a tropical plant belonging to the Zingiberaceae or ginger family. The leafy plant is native to Southeast Asia and is valued as a medicinal and ornamental home garden variety, producing colorful bracts and flowers, reaching 1 to 2 meters in height. Temu Ireng is also found in the wild, and underground rhizomes are harvested for medicinal use. The clustered rhizomes are considered a lesser-known medicinal ginger, primarily localized to natural medicines in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. Temu Ireng has several regional names throughout Southeast Asia, including Fen Hong He Lan Jiang, Temu Hitam, Temu Ereng, Shen Lan Se De Temu, and Waan Mahaameak. The variety is also known as Pink and Blue Ginger, named for the flower’s pink coloring and the blue tint sometimes found in the rhizomes. Temu Ireng is not commercially produced and is cultivated on a small scale through specialty growers as a medicinal ingredient. The rhizome’s intensely bitter flavor is often incorporated into drinks and teas, balanced with sweet ingredients, and is consumed as an immune-boosting tonic.
Temu Ireng is traditionally used in natural medicines throughout Southeast Asia. The rhizomes contain anti-inflammatory properties to protect the body against external environmental damage, antibacterial properties to destroy and prevent the growth of bacteria, and antioxidants to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and fight against free radicals. Temu Ireng is primarily steeped into teas, crushed and mixed into tonics, or chewed to reduce symptoms of colds, flu, and stomach aches. The rhizomes have also been listed in Traditional Chinese Medicinal texts to soothe sore throats, relieve coughs, and assist with cleansing the blood. In India, dried roots are ground into a powder and placed on toothaches, and fresh roots are chewed to stimulate digestion.
Temu Ireng rhizomes have a bitter and earthy flavor primarily reserved for medicinal preparations rather than culinary. The roots are customarily steeped in hot water, grated, chewed, or sliced. When incorporated into tea as an immune-boosting beverage, the tea is served with honey to create a more palatable taste. Temu Ireng rhizomes can also be blended or pressed into juices, mixed with brown sugar, fruits, or other sweeteners for added flavor. These drinks are consumed frequently to increase nutrient intake and can be drunk in the morning, afternoon, or evening. In Indonesia, Temu Ireng is popularly incorporated into drinks and tonics to help increase children’s appetites. Beyond beverages, Temu Ireng is sometimes thinly sliced and simmered into soups or curries. Temu Ireng pairs well with sweeteners such as syrups, honey, sugar, and brown sugar, chile peppers, and roots, including turmeric and other types of gingers. Whole, Temu Ireng rhizomes will keep 2 to 3 months when stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. Dried and powdered rhizomes will keep for several years when stored in a cool, dark, and dry location.
Temu Ireng is traditionally used in jamu cabe puyang, a medicinal drink made from rhizomes, water, sugar, chile peppers, noni fruits, herbs, and other aromatics. Jamu is a type of Indonesian natural medicine that has been used to boost the immune system for thousands of years. There are many different recipes and drinks made from various ingredients to target specific ailments, and jamu cabe puyang was featured as one of the recipes used in the Jamu Gedong Festival in Batu, East Java. Jamu gedong is a term for women running their own businesses selling jamus on the street, and during the festival, a contest was held to select the top jamu seller. Over thirty-six participants entered the competition, and each contestant had to make jamu cabe puyang and jamu kunir asem, drinks to help reduce symptoms of colds and soothe aching muscles. Presentation, preparation, and flavor were considered in judging the jamu gedong contest, and participants freshly prepared their blends using artfully planned actions and movements while the judges and audience watched.
Temu Ireng is native to tropical and subtropical Asia, specifically in Myanmar, and has been growing wild since ancient times. The plants are typically found in teak forests, grassy fields, tropical forests, and alongside rivers and streams. Since the plant’s discovery, Temu Ireng has been harvested from wild plants for natural medicines. Over time, the plant was spread throughout Southeast Asia and was established in home gardens as an ornamental. It also became a popular ingredient for medicinal preparations. Today Temu Ireng plants are still found wild and are grown on a small scale in India, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. Freshly harvested rhizomes are primarily found through local vendors at wet markets. Dried rhizomes and powders are available through online retailers, medicinal health stores, and local markets in Southeast Asia. The Temu Ireng featured in the photograph above was sourced from a vendor at the Geylang Serai Market and Food Center in Singapore.