Turmeric is native to South East Asia and is usually recognizable as a bright yellow/orange and pungent spice associated with asian cooking - particularly Indian curries. It is often referred to as a “super food” that has many therapeutic applications. It also has been identified as containing a very large number of substances that promote good health - providing turmeric with health benefits not available in many other foods.
Turmeric is very easy to grow in the right conditions and if you have the room in your garden, or even a spare pot either indoors or outside, you should consider adding it to your list of plants to grow.
Common Names: Turmeric; Indian saffron
Scientific Name: Curcuma longa
Turmeric is a perennial plant and as such, can be maintained year after year. It grows up to 1m tall and produces rhizomes underground - it is these rhizomes that provide the spice that is so sought after. However, if left to fully mature for about 1 year, turmeric plants will produce beautiful flower spikes that are themselves worth growing this wonderful plant for.
Water availability is important for turmeric - it is a native of the warm high rainfall areas of southeast Asia. Therefore adequate water availability is critical. Because Turmeric produces a substantial rhizome, it is also important that the soil drains well - if it gets too wet, the rhizome will rot.
Turmeric is a tropical plant and therefore can only be grown outdoors in temperatures above 18oC (Zones 9 or warmer). It will not tolerate frosts. Turmeric can tolerate light shade (think rain forest). In fact, this can even be good for it, although it will result in a reduced yield. If you don’t live in an area with this climate, turmeric can be grown very well in pots indoors.
Plant turmeric early to mid spring - the soil should be warm. Rhizomes can be broken up into sections (setts), ensuring that there is a “growing bud’ on each sett you intend planting. Sow each sett approximately 6cm deep, while maintaining about 30cm between plants.
Harvest after 9 to 10 months. It will be clear when they are ready - the plant leaves and stem turn brown and dry oout - the plant actually appears to be dying back.
It is turmeric that give curries their distinctive yellow colour - typical curry powder consists of approximately 25% turmeric. Turmeric can be used fresh or dried. Don’t overlook the the leaves - these can be used to wrap around fish while being baked providing a lovely flavour.