How To Grow Fresh Turmeric Organically
Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is a rhizome that is widely used in Indian cuisine. The yellowish-orange powder made from grinding turmeric root has a warm, bitter, slightly astringent taste and is used to flavor and color food.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine to treat a variety of conditions.
Curcumin has been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It can help to improve brain function and memory while also providing relief from pain and joint stiffness. Fresh turmeric is also a natural detoxifier and can help improve digestion. Adding fresh organic turmeric to your diet is a simple way to boost your health and your immune system!
You can find some helpful articles on our blog around the incredible benefits of turmeric.
But what you probably didn’t know is that you can grow turmeric in your own backyard, and it is actually easier than you think. Plus you get to reap the benefits of something you’ve grown.
When you see a turmeric plant, you may not know that the fully grown plant can reach up to three feet in height. The leaves are lanceolate, and the flowers which grow in the center of the plant vary in color. The plant takes about nine months to mature, at which point the rhizomes can be harvested.
The rhizomes are then dried and ground into the bright yellow powder that we know as turmeric. But before it reaches our spice racks, the turmeric plant looks like any other leafy green plant. It's only when it's fully grown and ready for harvest that its true colors show.
Where can I buy a turmeric seed/rhizome?
You can buy fresh rhizomes from the grocery store or health shops. The best options are ones that are certified organic and have roots that are firm with a bright orange color. Avoid roots that are wilted or have any mold on them.
If they are not organic they may have been sprayed with something that will prevent them from sprouting, which won’t be beneficial to you.
Alternatively you can buy fresh rhizomes online and have them shipped to you.
How do I grow the turmeric rhizome?
Turmeric, being a tropical plant, loves the sun and warm, moist soil.
It is an incredibly durable plant and can survive through extreme conditions for short periods of time. But if you’re intending on growing it at home then it should be in a sunny and warm place and watered everyday.
Whether you’re planting it in a pot or outside in the garden, the soil should be loose and needs to be prepared by adding some organic compost (cow dung works well).
If you’re planting it in a pot then make sure it is 14 inches or larger in order to have enough space for the rhizome to grow. Place a rhizome finger about 2-3 inches under the soil.
Water the plant well so that all the soil gets some water. After planting it you can check it every other day to make sure the soil is still damp or wet, but not soaking or swimming in water.
When should I plant the turmeric?
Your area and how cold it gets will largely determine when you should plant the rhizomes.
It is best to plant towards the end of winter so that it doesn’t get frostbite, and then harvested at the end of fall/ beginning of winter the following year.
In areas that fall under USDA zones 8 and up, turmeric can be grown outside all year round. It might need some partial shade for higher temperatures, or to be covered with a shade cloth so that it doesn’t get scorched. For those in zones lower than 8, it is best to grow the plant in a greenhouse or in your home for better controlled temperatures. During the summer seasons it will most likely be just fine outside, but as the weather gets cooler it will need a little more attention and warmth.
What do I do when it’s harvesting time?
Between 7 and 10 months you will notice that the leaves will start to change color at the root, from a bright green to brown and yellow colors. It will look as though the plant has died. This is when you know it is time to harvest.
Gently dig up soil around the plant, making sure to not tug on the leaves in case you pull them off the root. Be sure to also not dig into the root. Once the soil around the plant is loosened, gently pull the root out of the soil.
You might be surprised at how small the bundle of turmeric fingers are.
Rinse off the rhizomes and snip off the leaves. There will most likely be smaller roots entangled around the rhizome too, these can be cut off with scissors or a small, sharp knife.
Let the rhizomes dry out before storing them in an air-tight container.
If you’re not planning to eat it all right away, it can be frozen!
Written by Caryn Mackenzie on behalf of Turmeric Zone