Turmeric is one of the most popular spices around. Chances are you’re familiar with turmeric (and its main component, curcumin) as an anti-inflammatory and as the spice responsible for the yellow color in curries. Turmeric is also one of the fastest growing supplement markets for investment purposes. This multi-purpose spice is also surprisingly easy to grow.
Growing and processing your own turmeric can ensure a fresh supply year-round and also save you a good bit of money in the long run. Read on to find out that there’s an easy way to grow this versatile plant in just about any climate.
What is Turmeric?
Edible turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a “rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the ginger family.” The part of turmeric primarily used is the root (also known as a rhizome or turmeric finger.)
Turmeric plants grow to about 3 feet in height, although some varieties are up to 7 feet tall. All have large “canna-like” green leaves shooting up from a thick stem. Turmeric blooms are colorful bright pink and yellow hyacinth-like flowers.
There are over 100 different species of Curcuma with uses ranging from seasoning for food to dyes, to purely ornamental use. The most commonly grown species for household use is Curcuma longa, an orange Turmeric. The roots are boiled in water and then dried and ground to make the familiar yellow curries where Turmeric is the main ingredient.
There are several ways to grade and classify turmeric. Here are some of the most common ways:
- Unpolished or polished turmeric fingers (whole rhizomes)
- Sliced turmeric (fresh)
- Powdered turmeric (dried and ground)
Now that we know all about what turmeric is, let’s move on to the benefits of turmeric.
Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric has played an important role in medicines and food for over 4,000 years. Turmeric has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. Turmeric plants are an excellent source of Vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium.
It’s been shown that turmeric can help relieve pain from arthritis or injury, and is effective in relieving some types of skin, some aspects of heart disease, and some types of cancer.
Turmeric is native to parts of Asia where the temperature range is between 68° and 86° Fahrenheit. Turmeric’s USDA Hardiness Zone ranges 8 to 11. If you are in a colder area (prolonged temperature below 50 degrees – the plant’s limit), you can grow Turmeric as an annual.
Turmeric enjoys humid environments with lots of rain. The easiest way to start turmeric is to plant pieces of rhizome from a friend or nursery. (A search on “Turmeric plants for gardening” will return thousands of entries. Here’s one example of an organic farm offering.)
Turmeric Growing Information Table
|USDA Zones||8 – 11|
|Ideal Temperature||Above 65°|
|Soil pH||4.5 – 7.5|
|Days To Maturity||200 – 300|
|Soil Conditions||Moist and Well Draining|
Here’s how to plant, care for, and harvest your Turmeric.
Planting in a Garden or Pot
Plant the root pieces about 4 inches deep unless you are using a container in which case 2 inches is deep enough. Choose a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade. The soil needs to be high in organic matter with good drainage.
Keep the plants watered – as new rhizomes grow, the turmeric will spread rapidly. Because Turmeric spreads, a space 6 to 12 feet is a good option. However, you can grow Turmeric in spaces as small as 3 square feet.
Note that if you use a container, you’ll need to re-pot frequently because of how fast the plant and roots develop.
Dig the roots in late fall to early winter. Turmeric will die back in the winter, but in temperate zones should return in the spring. There are some great YouTube videos on the entire cycle from planting to harvesting and using your turmeric.
Turmeric and Permaculture
Turmeric is a great choice for permaculture projects. The plant spreads quickly and is relatively low maintenance. Permaculture can be thought of as sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems. Turmeric can easily be included as one of the many plants in a “food forest.”
Turmeric and Vertical Farming
Turmeric is a great candidate for vertical farming as it has a short stem, simple leaves, and rhizomes that grow horizontally. Turmeric can thrive in stacked layers of medium in almost any warm and humid setting.
Resources for vertical farming and hydroponics recommend turmeric be grown considering the following, with rhizomes ready for harvest in 5 to 8 months:
- Proper lighting – including daylight intervals
- Correct temperature – 80 to 90 degrees F
- Humidity of 70 to 90%
- Proper nutrient mix
That Turmeric is such a good candidate for hydroponics and vertical farming means Turmeric really can be grown in just about any climate.
Farmdrop is an excellent resource for how to prepare and use Turmeric. Here are some ideas they suggest.
You can peel the turmeric with a vegetable peeler, then thinly slice or grate it. Careful though, the color will stain your hands and any surfaces the turmeric touches (lemon juice will help remove the color.) For use in recipes, in general, one inch of fresh turmeric = one tablespoon freshly of grated turmeric = one teaspoon of ground turmeric.
Fresh turmeric is great in teas, egg dishes, smoothies, dressings, and marinades. You can store the wrapper in a paper towel inside a container in your refrigerator. Or, like ginger, you can also freeze it.
Dried turmeric is made by peeling, boiling, drying, and grinding the rhizomes. This process takes away some of the essential oils in fresh turmeric but dried and ground turmeric is easy to store and is what’s usually called for in various recipes.
Epicurious offers some great recipes for both dried and fresh turmeric.
Your Next Garden Adventure – Turmeric!
This article has given you the information you need to get started growing Turmeric. It’s a relatively easy plant to grow and the health benefits of its major compound curcumin make it well worth the growing, harvesting, and prep time. And remember, growing your own Turmeric ensures what you use is safe, fresh, and healthy.