Sunday, 10 August 2008

Pano'on - Local Candy - Bromeliad or What? - Part II

I first wrote about pano'on just a week ago, and things have developed rapidly. First I contacted Brandon McHenry, who identified my Dischidia or talikubo for me. He, in turn, suggested that pano'on was not a bromeliad at all, nor a relative of maize, but a relative of ginger, which was a total surprise to me.Pano'on Hornstedtia conoidea Siargao Island, Philippines

Brandon also introduced me to John Mood, a world authority on ginger taxonomy, who confirmed the plant was probably Hornstedtia conoidea, which also grows in Borneo.

Well, I hadn't seen much more of the plant than a few ripening buds and a few leaves, which had made me think it was this: Zingiber mioga - Japanese Wild Ginger, which is commercially-grown in Japan (and now in New Zealand) for its young buds, which are a great delicacy.
Zingiber mioga - Tsukuba Botanical Garden

The buds are shown here:
(Click photo to go to 'the scent of green bananas blog for recipes)

Well, this really got me thinking. If New Zealand farmers are canny enough to grow this stuff for export to Japan, why shouldn't we do the same here in Siargao? Looked easy to me; it's a perennial, so you plonk it in the ground, and pick a bit idly from time to time.

But if you look at the botanical drawing, you'll see that mioga has a white flower, whereas our pano'on's flowers turn out to have a brilliant deep red flower (top right). And the local people don't eat the buds, although they do eat the unripe berry pods (and so do rats and other forest rodents - we didn't find a single young bud on the specimens Ron brought back, from his second expedition on Thursday).

Ron also mentioned another ginger relative, locally known as kayaskason, which also has edible berries, growing at the top of a long stem, so I asked him to get some of those as well, plus anything else he could find. He came up trumps. Kayaskason turns out to be a species of Alpinia, or even a natural hybrid, and extremely rare. It seems strange that it is common enough here for the local people to give it a name.kayaskason alpinia ginger Siargao Island, Philippines

Well, that's exciting enough, but this photo shows only the unripe seed pods. We've planted it in the garden, but I don't think I can wait for the flowers to come out, so I guess we'll have to go and get some, to finally find out what it is.

'Yellow panoon Etlingeria Siargao Island PhilippinesBut the third wild ginger that Ron brought back turns out to be a little honey. You can see in this photo the yellow flowers and pink fruit. Here's another photo of the pink fruit.Yellow panoon Etlingeria Siargao Island Philippines

This one, apparently, is an Etlingera fimbriobracteata.

Now that I know these marvels are to be found in the forests around here, I'll be looking out for them.

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