How to Grow Turmeric
Turmeric scientifically known as ‘Curcuma longa’ belongs to the ginger family ‘Zingiberaceae’ is native to southern India and Indonesia. Turmeric is also known as Indian saffron since it exhibits similar qualities like that of saffron and also because of its orange-yellow colour. Turmeric has a vast history of medicinal use in south Asia especially in India. It was not only used for medicinal purposes but also for beauty purposes by women to prevent facial hair, facial mask (hurud) and also for acne . Turmeric was also used as a spice in culinary practices as a spice and as a colouring agent.
Most of us buy turmeric powder as a spice from the supermarket or a spice shop, and use the powder to cook, whip up turmeric teas, golden milk, lattes and even as an facial mask. However, have you ever thought of using fresh turmeric? Not only using the fresh turmeric from your farmer’s market, but growing them yourself. In your kitchen garden, or small lot and get this, even in your house. Turmeric can thrive as an indoor plant as well with favourable conditions.
Turmeric plant appearance.
- It can grow up to a height of 1m
- It is highly branched
- Leaves are alternate and arranged in two rows, There are 7 to 12 leaves, the leaf sheaths
form the pseudo stem.
- Its leaves are big and glossy, making it an attractive foliage plant.
- The turmeric plant can be used as an ornamental plant.
- 1-4 flowers are born in axil of the bract opening one at a time. About 30 flowers are produced in a spike
Turmeric thrives in hot weather and likes soil that is rich, well drained, consistently moist and fertile. It also prefers the morning sun rather than full sun (in the regions with temperatures above 90 degrees). It takes seven to 10 months from planting to harvest. It is grown from rhizomes (fleshy root like structures) or its tuberous root. These can be found in markets or any Indian stores. When choosing which to buy, select the rhizomes that are plump with many buds (similar to the ‘eyes’ on a potato or the buds on a ginger root) along their sides.
Select a suitable container for the plant to grow in. keep in mind that turmeric is a large plant so you will need a container or pot approximately 20 inches across and 15 inches deep. After you have selected your rhizomes well, be it small with 3 buds on it or a large one with a couple of them, which you will need to divide them. You will have to plant a rhizome with a maximum of 3 to 4 buds on it. Do not cut the rhizome into smaller pieces, this will increase their chances or rotting. In case this happens, let the smaller rhizomes cure for at least a week so that the cut area can dry and scab over. Plant the rhizome 2 inches deep in your pot with the buds facing up.
Depending on the region you grow your turmeric, consider the weather as well. If your area is extremely hot, make sure to increase the humidity by spraying the plant with some water. If your area is cold, make sure that your plant stays indoors in a warm environment, making sure it receives enough sunlight. Turmeric plant loves the sun. Ensure it receives enough morning sun and in the afternoon when the sun is a its peak, keep it under a shade especially in areas that are extremely hot.
Turmeric loves soil that is rich. You can achieve this by increasing the fertility of the soil using compost, manure or some fertilizer. This enhances its nutrients; hence the turmeric will feed well, yielding healthy turmeric rhizomes or roots.
Make sure the pot in which you have planted turmeric never dries out since turmeric soil needs to be consistently moist. I know this can be a huge challenge because the soil in a pot dries out faster than that on the ground. It is important to note that just because turmeric loves water doesn’t mean its soil needs to be soggy.
Growing turmeric in a container or pot may be a much suitable option for persons living in cooler areas. This will make it easy for them to carry the pot indoors whenever the temperatures are not favourable for the plant.
Growing in the ground, repeat the process as stated above, when selecting the rhizome. Prepare the ground for planting then place the prepared rhizomes 4-6 inches apart and ensure they are grown 2-4 inches deep in the ground. Always ensure the soil is moist but not soggy.
The turmeric plant can perform well in shaded light and makes an ideal companion plant under fruit and nut trees. Turmeric should be planted with legumes (nitrogen fixing) such as pigeon peas to improve soil fertility.
Turmeric plant care.
In simple terms, for turmeric to grow, try to mimic the native tropical weather conditions that are hot and wet.
To achieve the moist environment for the turmeric to start sprouting, drip irrigation is most appropriate because the water flow will be consistent. Care for turmeric plant is minimal apart from keeping its soil moist all through its growing season however there may be times when you will need to prune some leaves which may have turned brown during the early stages of growth, this may indicate that your plant is receiving too much sun. Moving it to a shade would be the best solution. Also, browning of the leaves especially near the end of its growing season, about 10 months indicates time for harvest.
Turmeric pests and diseases
Shoot borer and rhizome scale are the two main pests that affect turmeric plants.
The nature of damage by shoot borer to turmeric is Up to 75% shoot damage and up to 26% yield loss is reported due to the bore in turmeric plant. The rhizome scale severely infests stored
When harvesting time is fast approaching, cut back the watering or the turmeric for at least a week. This will make it easier to harvest the turmeric. Harvesting turmeric should be done at the 10month since sprouting. Harvesting turmeric, just like ginger can be a bit tricky. If you pull up the plant, the rhizomes might break off, because they also grow to the sides in a way resembling hands. You are also not supposed to use any tool to harvest them, to prevent cutting or scraping the turmeric.
Planting them in pots makes harvesting easier since you can lay the pot on its side and gently dump the contents while sifting through with your hands to release the turmeric rhizomes. If you grew them in the ground, you can use your hands to sift thorough the soil to release the turmeric.
Separate the rhizomes from the plant at the point they meet. Cut off any stringy roots from the rhizomes, then rinse them well to remove dirt.
The harvested turmeric can be stored whole in an airtight container or in a zip lock bag in your fridge. They can be minced too and stored in airtight containers, or totally frozen. You can also decide to dry them then ground them into a fine powder.
Turmeric seeds are rare and typically difficult to obtain, as most flowers fail to produce fruit and the vast majority of propagation occurs through the rhizomes, or tuberous root.
By Eila Oketch.