COMMON NAMES: Commonly known as turmeric, turmeric and curcumin.
LATIN NAME: Curcumae Longae
HISTORY: This root is highly revered in Ayurvedic medicine, as well as general South Asian cuisine. Native to Southern Asia, the name curcuma comes from the Arabic word “kurkum”, or “saffron”, and is an indication of its relationship to the vibrant orange color of both herbs. Since Biblical times, turmeric has been used to spice foods, make perfume and color clothing.
HERBAL PROPERTIES AND USES: Turmeric has a vast variety of medicinal uses. In traditional medicine, it used to treat liver ailments, ulcers, parasitic infections, skin problems, bruises, joint pain and inflammation, sprains, strains, cold and flu symptoms, as well as a general digestive aid. Scientific research shows that turmeric aids in breaking down liver toxins, strengthens the functioning of the gallbladder, aids in lipid (fat) metabolizing, and stops blood clotting. In general, it is a good anti-inflammatory agent. What is more, recent studies show that turmeric may help prevent colon, breast, lung and other forms of cancers.
ANNUAL/PERRENIAL PLANT: Perennial that re-shoots every spring.
PARTS USED: Root
SOIL REQUIREMENTS: Well drained, fertile soil
SUN REQUIREMENTS: Turmeric prefers warm direct or indirect sun.
GROWING ZONES: Turmeric is a tropical plant that does well when given abundant heat and moisture. This root will grow well in any region that has a temperate summer, and will die in the winter. USDA Zones 7b-10b
PLANTING TIME: Unless you live in the tropics, where it can be planted anytime, plant in late spring. Fresh roots can be planted directly into soil.
POLLINATION: The dried rhizome of turmeric can be used in subsequent plantings.
FLOWERING/SEEDING TIME: Turmeric shoots appear in about two months from planting. The rhizomes can usually be harvested from seven to ten months after planting, when leaves and stems become dry.
HARVESTING: When the plant has changed from abundant green to dry, dig up the entire plant, ensuring that you dig up the entire root (as this is the part that is used medicinally). Plan to harvest your turmeric root at the end of the summer growing season.
DRYING METHODS / YIELD:
Drying turmeric is a fairly complicated process. First you must boil the roots, then leave in the sun to dry, or use a dehydrator. The plant may also be used fresh and raw in a grated form.
Approximately 700 grams of fresh root yields per plant.
PRESERVATION / PACKAGING METHODS: Store fresh roots in the refrigerator, as you would fresh ginger. Dried, the root can be made into a powder and stored in an airtight container.
ESSENTIAL OIL USE: The essential oil is excellent for skin conditions, bruises, sprains, fungal infections, Athlete’s foot and muscular aches.
PLANT CHEMICALS: Turmeric’s main active chemical component is a phenolic curcuminoid. It also contains immune boosting polysaccharides.
IS THIS AN EDIBLE PLANT: Yes
CAUTIONS / CONTRAINDICATIONS: No contraindications have been seen, but avoid if you are pregnant, as turmeric has been associated with stimulating menstruation and possibly, but rarely, inducing abortion.
DRUG INTERACTIONS: Avoid taking turmeric when taking drugs related to diabetes (that lower blood sugar).
Turmeric Cultivation and Growing Methods
Turmeric is a super spice. Many experts believe that turmeric may have over 600 potential preventive and therapeutic applications.
It has both antiseptic and antibacterial properties, which make it great for cleaning and treating wounds. But what makes turmeric so popular is its anti-inflammatory properties that have been studied to rival ibuprofen.
If you find turmeric to be expensive or enjoy growing your own food, keep on reading.
How To Grow Turmeric Indoors
Similar to ginger, turmeric is grown from rhizomes (root cuttings). Turmeric does not propagate seeds. So all you need is one turmeric root which you can find at your local health stores.
To grow turmeric indoors, just follow these simple steps:
- Break a larger rhizome into a small rhizome piece that has two or three buds.
- Fill your pots with rich organic soil, which is lightly moist but well drained.
- Place it about two inches below the surface of the soil, with the buds facing up.
- Water the container.
That’s all there is to it!
Note: Turmeric will benefit from bi-monthly feedings of a good organic fertilizer or compost tea.
How To Water Turmeric
Turmeric likes water. Keep the soil moist, particularly in hot, dry climates. Try watering it once every 2 days or misting with a spray bottle. If you live in cooler climates, water less frequently. The key here is to keep the soil from ever getting soggy.
How To Harvest Turmeric
Turmeric takes between 8 to 10 months for the edible rhizomes to mature. While the leaves and stems are edible, most people harvest turmeric only for its roots. Most herbs can be harvested throughout the growing season, but turmeric root is best if harvested all at once when mature.
When the rhizomes are large enough, dig up all rhizomes from the pot. They are best if all harvested at once.
Dig up the rhizomes and save a few pieces to plant for the following season. Make sure to change the soil, though, because the original plant probably depleted it of all its nutrients.
Storage and Use
Turmeric roots should be kept in a cool, dry place until use.
When you are ready to use them, follow these directions:
- Boil the roots for 45 minutes.
- Dry the turmeric for approximately one week.
- Wearing gloves to prevent dying your hands bright yellow, peel the roots.
- Grind the peeled rhizomes into the lovely spice that is used in so many recipes.