Earlier this week, we talked about ginger as a superfood, the benefits of including it in your life, how to grow it year-round, no matter where you live, and some examples of what to do with it! You can read more about that here. Now, I want to discuss ginger’s cousin and new-found bestie: Turmeric!
In today’s world, EVERYONE is talking about turmeric. While it used to be simply a golden-hued spice that you included in your curry recipes, it has evolved into so much more! Nowadays, people are putting turmeric in their tea, making smoothies, taking daily supplements, or even using it as a natural addition of color to their recipes. Sure, you can easily buy the powder that is ready to use, but those who’ve tried fresh swear by the more intense flavor and the increased health benefits! And, it’s easy to grow your own for way cheaper than the cost of fresh root from the stores.
But what about turmeric is so special? The active ingredient: curcumin. Not to be confused with cumin, the spice added to several Mexican-inspired dishes to give that distinct flavor. Curcumin has quickly become known as one of the most beneficial medicinal herbs out there for consumption! Curcumin is known to have significant anti-inflammatory properties, is an antioxidant, and has been known to reduce swelling and inflammation, improve memory, lower and regulate blood pressure, and even slow or prevent cancer development. I bet you didn’t realize your curry was doing so much for you!
So where can you find turmeric? Most people don’t realize that turmeric grows and looks very similar to ginger root, with rhizomes growing and sprouting shoots off of existing rhizome fingers. We’ve had success finding fresh turmeric root in our local natural food stores and Asian/Indian markets. Of course, I recommend purchasing only certified organic turmeric root. Many of the non-organic roots are coated with substances that prevent sprouting. Try to select a root that is large, with several rhizome arms extending from it and as many bumps (which are buds) on the root as possible.
Now, how do you grow turmeric? If you grow it indoors, after 7-10 months, you can have a steady supply of turmeric all year round, no matter where you live!
Step 1: Split up the rhizomes for planting
Cut up the rhizome root that you purchased into small, 2-3 inch sections. Be sure the sections you are cutting have buds on them.
Step 2: Select your container
Like ginger, turmeric grows outward horizontally, with shoots sprouting upward. Therefore, you will want to select a container that is wider than it is deep. I recommend a large container overall, as turmeric can easily be 3 feet tall, and has large, wide leaves. You might even consider planting the root in small germination containers prior to planting in their permanent pot. I frequently use these.
Step 3: Plant the turmeric
Fill up your container 3/4 of the way to the top with good potting soil. Lay one rhizome piece flat on the soil, buds facing upward, and cover with 2-3 inch more potting soil.
Step 4: Germinate the turmeric root
This step is important. Turmeric needs a warm, moist area to germinate and start sprouting. I recommend covering the pot with plastic wrap on the top, putting a heating pad underneath your pot, positioning a light over the top, and watering frequently. This will create a microenvironment in which the temperature stays ~85-95 degrees Fahrenheit that the turmeric loves. If you germinate without warmth, the process will be slow, and may even cause the root to rot rather than germinate. Water every couple of days, or however often is needed to keep the soil moist.
Step 5: Grow!
Once the turmeric has germinated, small sprouts will start to emerge from the top of the soil. Once this occurs, you can move the pot to a windowsil, or somewhere on the ground where it will get plenty of sunlight and warmth. Unless your home is warm (75-85 degrees Fahrenheit), continue to have a heating pad underneath the container. You will be able to remove them after the plants have matured more. Continue to water frequently, to ensure the soil is moist, though not sopping.
Once the plants have grown to 6-8 inches tall, you should start slowly reducing the heating pad warmth each week until 70 degrees Fahrenheit, after which you can remove the heating pad permanently, as long as your house is 68-70 degrees inside.
Step 6: Harvest time
You will know the turmeric is ready to harvest when the leaves turn brown and the stalks start to dry out. At this point, you can dig up the rhizomes. This occurs 7-10 months after planting. Cut the stems ~1 inch away from the rhizome. At this point, you should set aside some of the larger rhizomes for re-planting to start again!
I like to have several turmeric plants going at different phases of growth, to ensure I have turmeric root ready to harvest year-round. You can store the root in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 6 months.
Now that you’ve grown your own turmeric, what do you do with it?? Turmeric powder is one of the more versatile forms of turmeric. You can read more about how to dehydrate the turmeric powder here. You can then add it to recipes as a dry powder, or purchase some capsules and encapsulate it to take daily as a supplement. Personally, I like to add fresh root to my smoothies or tea. My favorite tea recipe can be found here (Also a great opportunity to use that fresh ginger you’ve been growing!) If you’re in a pinch, I also like to purchase this tea from Amazon to keep some on hand at all times. Alternatively, you can throw it into numerous recipes to spice things up! The Today show reviews some of its favorite recipes for turmeric here.
And there you have it! Something that may seem a bit intimidating is actually pretty easy and simple. And significantly more cost-effective. Comment below with some of your own favorite turmeric uses!