Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) is a lovely perennial with beautiful green leaves that can grow up to 2 feet long and produce yellow flowers that can be enjoyed while the rhizomes grow and multiply underground. The plant, which is considered a spice, is part of the ginger family and is native to Southern Asia. It can be planted outdoors in warmer growing zones and kept in a pot if the location becomes cooler in the Fall and Winter seasons. It is best to allow turmeric to grow at least six months before attempting to harvest but for the best results, wait closer to 9-10 months time. People hear the name “turmeric” and they think “spices” but it has been widely used for multiple applications such as Asian medicines. It has also been used as a yellow dye dating back to early 600 B.C.
Choosing a location:
Turmeric likes filtered shade so, avoid any full sun locations. Afternoon shade is always recommended as sunlight is much more intense in the afternoon. If there is a spot on your property that has soil that is always moist (never saturated), then the spice will thrive in this location. It enjoys moisture at all times.
Planting Directions (in ground):
1) Prepare your soil for planting the turmeric rhizomes by mixing in cow manure, compost, sand (if the soil retains extra moisture from lack of drainage) and some all purpose fertilizer.
2) Plant rhizomes in moistened soil about 8-10 inches apart and about 3 inches deep.
3) Avoid watering until you see the shoots appear in around 3-6 weeks.
4) Once the shoots start to show, be sure to monitor your soil moisture. Keep it consistently moist but, not to the point where the soil is saturated with water.
*Tip: You can easily begin your rhizomes in a pot to get them prepared for an approaching warm season in the garden!
Planting Directions (potted): This is a remarkably easy process!
1) Select a pot with good drainage holes that are at least 14×14 inches as turmeric is not a very “tiny” plant.
2) Use a good potting soil and plant the rhizome about 2-3 inches below the soil surface.
3) Water until potting soil is nicely moisturized but, not sludge-like.
4) Place your pot in a nice, sunny room. Turmeric can grow a bit large for a window!
Turmeric requires a regular, consistent watering regimen but, take care; overwatering can stunt and slow the growth. Whether it be potted or in your garden bed, only give the plant more water if the soil is slightly dry to the touch. Overwatering can lead to leaching of the nutrients out of the soil and can be identified by yellowing of the leaves along the edges. Use mulch when in the garden to cut back on competing weeds and grass. An occasional misting of the plant is also recommended.
Turmeric should be fertilized using a balanced 10-10-10 formula bi-weekly. Liquid fertilizers such as Miracle Grow are an ideal form of fertilizing. When the plant begins to flower, do not worry about slowing your fertilizing. It will not inhibit your root harvest and the yellow flowers do not produce seeds. Potted turmeric can greatly benefit from weekly feedings of mild or diluted fertilizer.
Turmeric rhizomes are best harvested when they mature at about 9-10 months time. You can harvest the leaves and the stems but the true joy of the plant is in the rhizomes. The plant’s leaves will eventually dry out and start to turn yellow, strangely enough, this is the sign your rhizomes are ready to dig up. Cut your rhizomes away from the stems and rinse them off and they’re ready for use! You can repeat the whole growth process again by taking a healthy piece of the rhizomes and starting with a fresh soil location or a fresh pot of gardening soil. Keep your harvested roots in a cool, dry place.
Turning Rhizome to spice:
This is an easy recipe to make your turmeric into the wonderful spice you’d come to see in your supermarket! Just boil the turmeric root for 45 minutes and let dry for precisely one week. Be sure to wear gloves and something to protect your clothes when handling/peeling as the bright yellow peel will easily leave a dye stain on skin for days and permanently on clothing. Using a grater; grind the rhizome into that wonderful spice so commonly used in so many recipes!