Growing Turmeric (Curcuma longa) in the Back Yard

turmeric patch 2

Turmeric (scientific name: Curcuma longa) is an attractive plant that you can grow yourself as long as the temperature is warm (above 65 F).

I found fresh turmeric rhizomes for sale at an Asian food store, and thought I would try growing it myself. This was a couple of years ago. I looked up information on how to grow it.

turmeric fresh

I planted them in about 6 large black plastic pots (about 12″ in height) that I had filled with potting soil. I planted one root piece per pot and tucked them about an inch or so into the potting soil, with the growing bud(s) pointed upwards. Then watered them thoroughly. This was in the spring.

Sure enough, after about 2 or 3 weeks little tooth-like shoots started poking through the soil.

Some took longer to sprout, and two never did. Those that did sprout grew through the summer and did fine, even though I didn’t water them that often. By the fall they grew into lovely 3-foot tall plants. I harvested them in October, and from the roots got about 6 or so small rhizomes per plant. (I could have waited a bit until the leaves turned yellow for possibly a better harvest). I saved the roots for planting.

Fast forward to this spring: this time I planted the 14 turmeric rhizomes I had previously harvested directly in the back yard garden, in soil enriched with kitchen compost. This was where they would get about 6 hours of sun per day. turmeric shoots

All of them sprouted and produced about the same number of rhizomes as the ones I planted in potting soil. I was a bit disappointed though as I had hoped to see some flowers on them at some point. Well, maybe next year!

This year I’ll do a little experiment and plant the turmeric rhizomes this month (November), to give them a head start in growing. Hopefully the tubers will survive the winter months and will start sprouting as soon as they can in the spring (I will of course have to mulch them heavily to provide them with some insulation). I’ll let you all know the results sometime early next year

Here are photos of the turmeric plants I planted from rhizomes in the spring (and harvested mid-October).

turmeric patch 4

turmeric 2

turmeric buds

Turmeric has been cultivated for millennia, and has lost the ability to propagate itself by seed (much like the banana). It is instead propagated by the root cuttings. Apart from its many health benefits, it is an important ingredient in most Indian curries (and I love curries!). Fresh turmeric (to me at least) tastes like a combination of ginger and carrot, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It’s high in anti-oxidants and may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

My next project is to combine fresh turmeric with a fruit or vegetable smoothie. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

–Azul

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