“Aromatic plants bestow
no spicy fragrance while they grow;
but rush’d or trodden to the ground,
diffuse their balmy sweets around.”
Native to North America, the Southern Heartleaf Wild Ginger is found in shady woodland areas and for centuries was used for medicinal and culinary purposes, first by Native Americans and then by European settlers in America. Wild ginger (Asarum) is not the same as the culinary ginger (Zingeber officinale) used in ginger ale and stir-fry dishes, although its root and its rhizomes do have a spicy gingery aroma.
Traditionally, wild ginger decoctions and infusions or ground ginger root were variously used to treat irregular heartbeat, ear infections, flatulence, stomach cramps, kidney disorders, and snakebite (leading to its nickname “snakeroot”). The grated root also was used to flavor foods.
Growing up, I was very familiar with wild ginger, and we referred to the flower buds as “pigs.” I have no idea why.