Turmeric plant, also known as Curcuma longa, is an amazing nutrition supplement. With healthy food being more and more hot topic these days, most of us have at least heard about the "super-food." So where did it come from?
Turmeric is a rhizomatous plant from the ginger family. It's native to Southeast Asia, so it thrives in a hot climate. It was long believed that turmeric can only be cultivated in tropical regions, but with some proper instructions and care you can grow your own anywhere.
There are many reasons you might want to do this. Curcumin, the main active ingredient of turmeric, is a strong antioxidant and has a very powerful anti-inflammatory effect. It is linked to improved brain and memory functions and can reduce headaches.
List of health benefits is quite long; it's even useful in preventing cancer, diabetes, allergies, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease. You can find a more detailed list here.
Other than health benefits, turmeric is also used as a color dye, but most importantly it's a widely used as a spice. It's the main ingredient in curry powder and it's used in yellow mustard. Turmeric powder is an important ingredient in many dishes.
Anyone can have home-grown organic turmeric, and steps in how to grow turmeric are simple enough. So let's get started.
The first thing you need for any plant is a seed. Turmeric works a bit different; it doesn't produce actual seed, so you'll need a part of the root. It's not as common as most plants you encounter, so it might be a bit harder to find.
Try local organic shops, health food or vegetable shops. If you don't manage to get your hands on a fresh root, you can always order it online. Make sure you get few roots because they might not like all sprout.
You'll need to do this just once because once your own plant grows, you will just snap part of that root and use it to plant the next one. Each part that you plant should have 2-3 buds. Since turmeric can grow up to 39 inches high, you should plant them at least 11.8 inches apart.
Place the root 2 inches beneath the soil and turn at least one sprout upwards. The soil needs to be well-fertilized and moist. Water is very important for turmeric growth but if the soil is too wet the rhizome will most likely rot.
If the edges of leaves start turning yellow, you should check the soil to see if it's damp enough. You can also mist the leaves every day until you see them turn green again.
Where To Plant Your Turmeric
If you have a fertile garden, you can plant it directly into the ground. Turmeric blooms into a beautiful tropic plant with a white and pinkish flower that is pleasant to the eye, it will make your garden flourish.
If you live in warm enough region, the garden is a perfect place for planting the turmeric. The plant thrives best in a temperature range between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. It can tolerate down to 53.6 degrees, but if temperature plummets below that, you will need to move it to the pot and bring it indoors.
If the temperature drops too low, the root will freeze. If you grow turmeric in colder regions, you can place it in the oven and use a 60-watt incandescent light bulb to keep it warm enough. Just make sure you monitor the temperature with a thermometer, and you'll be ok.
Sun is essential for turmeric growth, but if you live in tropical regions, you should make sure your plant has some mid-day shade or it might dry-out and die. Tropical conditions also require more watering.
Using garden beds might be a bit more practical. You should add a lot of compost to make sure your turmeric will be well nourished. After planting add some fertilizer (organic would be our choice) and water it well. You can fertilize it roughly once a month with a liquid fertilizer.
Make sure you have a drainage system just in case you over-water it. As we mentioned before, this can lead to rotting, and that will ruin your plant.
Pot might be ideal if you are just starting out with your turmeric planting, or if you plan on growing it inside of your house. The basic principle is same as with using garden beds. Pot is also recommended if you live in colder regions and your plant will be indoors during the whole year.
When picking a pot, see that it's at least 11.8-inch in width and roughly that much in height. While it should have enough space to "breathe," in right conditions turmeric tends to grow even if it's crowded.
When should you plant turmeric
Turmeric usually needs 8-10 months to develop. This can actually vary from 6-12 months, but 8-10 is roughly a standard. If you plan on planting it outside, beginning of the spring would be ideal. It needs warm soil as it is a tropical plant. If you live in tropical regions, any time of the year is fine.
Indoor growing also doesn't require any specific time of the year. Just make sure that temperature and humidity are right. These are not the ideal conditions for turmeric, but if this is your only option, it will do.
Harvesting the turmeric
This is actually pretty easy part of the process. You just need to take the root out of the soil, remove the leaves, rinse it well and leave it to dry. You'll know that the turmeric is ready for harvesting when the leaves start to turn yellow and dry out and stems start dying.
At this point, you can snap off few parts that you can plant later. You also don't have to harvest entire plant. Just gently remove the soil around the plant and remove as much root as you need. You can cover the rest and leave it.
Turmeric is not a plant you can harvest throughout the season, like with most plants. You have to wait through the entire growing period until you can have an eatable root.
Using and storing turmeric root
You need to peel the roots before you can use it. We would recommend using gloves because of turmeric's dying properties. Also be careful or you can stain your clothes or anything in your proximity.
To make powdered turmeric, you can boil it for about 45 minutes, then leave it to dry well. Cut it into smaller pieces and leave it in the sun. This can take several days but be patient; it's important that it's well dried. Grind the root with any blunt object.
You can use mortar and pestle to turn it into a fine powder, or any electric home grinding tool.
To store the turmeric, don't peel it, just store it in the air-tight bag. This way it will stay relatively fresh. Turmeric can also be stored in powdered form. If you plan on needing it sometime in the future, you can also freeze it.
Turmeric pests and diseases
There are few pests and diseases that might attack your plant. They are not very common, but they do tend to happen. Most common pests that bother your turmeric are Shoot Borer and Leaf Roller caterpillars, and Scale Insects.
Diseases that tend to harm the turmeric are Leaf Blotch, Leaf Spot, and Rhizome Rot. You can see how to deal with them here.
Having a home-grown organic food is recommended for anyone who has time and means to grow it. Mass-produced food will always lack the quality, but more importantly, you will never be able to tell what pesticides were used, how the food was grown or how it was taken care of.
This is a growing problem, and many experts warn us that this type of food is causing the rise in many diseases. And the answer? It may very well lie in home-grown organic food.
Turmeric, being one of the best and healthiest foods out there, is surely the way to go. Planting it is easy, maintenance is easy, it's cheap, and there is no reason you shouldn't do it. Your health is your most treasured belonging. So do something for yourself today, go out and plant yourself a turmeric.