When I was a novice gardener, I dreamed of growing my own turmeric when I was attracted to the beauty of its lush, verdant leaves. It doubles as an ornamental plant, I remember telling myself but I found the thought of growing it a little daunting. Little did I know that it was simple to grow.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a warm climate plant from the same family as ginger (Zingiberaceae). Grown from a rhizome, it can be as simple as planting it in soil with the nodules facing up after the last frost date in spring and harvesting nine to ten months later.
How to Plant Turmeric
In Sydney’s temperate climate, I start turmeric in September once the soil has started to warm up, and you may like to check the BOM for your climate. by soaking organic rhizomes in a weak seaweed tonic solution overnight and planting them in compost rich soil. You may like to pre-sprout them by soaking them until the sprout from the nodules but I have not found that step necessary. Once it’s in the soil, do not overwater as the rhizomes can rot. As a tropical plant, it loves shade so pick a location that doesn’t get the hot sun in summer.
How to Care for Turmeric
During the growing season, keep the soil moist but don’t overwater. Although it can benefit from regular fertiliser, I prefer to plant it in compost rich soil at the start of the season than apply liquid fertiliser later.
When Should I Harvest Turmeric?
Turmeric is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow and die down. I prefer to harvest mine just before they change colour so I can use the leaves as well as the tubers. To harvest Curcuma longa, carefully dig around the tubers and use your hands to loosen the soil and gently lift the plant. Gently separate them and hose off the dirt.
If you’re in a warm climate, you can leave some rhizomes in the ground for the following season. In my climate and with the amount of rain Sydney had over the last three years thanks to the effects of La Niña, I saved some rhizomes in a paper bag in a cool, dark indoor location.
How to Preserve Turmeric
Clean rhizomes can be stored whole in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks or in the freezer and grated as required. Alternatively, slice the tubers and dehydrate in a dehydrator. They can be stored dry in a jar with a tight lid or blitzed into powder.
Turmeric stains everything it comes in contact with so be mindful while handling it. And keep an eye out for any flowers that may form. They truly elevate the ornamental value of this edible plant.
Want to Know More?
You’ll find more information on how to grow turmeric, which varieties to try, how to pair it with food and spirits, and how to use turmeric in cocktails including a full recipe in my 260+ page digital book GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN available now.