Turmeric is a wonderful source of bioactive compounds which have medically proven health benefits. We want to show you how affordable and easy it is to grow and harvest your own!
You will need to purchase turmeric rhizomes to grow this herb that originates from Southern Asia. Planting the rhizomes 4in deep in soil with great drainage will mean that you could be harvesting within 200 -300 days. Plan ahead as you will want the 4 foot tall foliage to get as much sunshine as possible and to have died back before harvesting.
Let’s look at this in more detail as turmeric has a lot to offer the backyard gardener and you will want to get a continual growth cycle to start as soon as possible!
Step By Step Guide To Planting Turmeric
Turmeric is an unusual herb to grow, however it is amongst some of the more expensive herbs to buy from a store, so you are saving your family money by growing it. You can eat it fresh or dried and therefore it really hits the spot for allowing us to be self sufficient. We have bought our Turmeric (Curcuma Longa)rhizomes via amazon here.
- Prepare your bed. You will start small, but by around year three need a much larger growing space. Your turmeric rhizome will thank you for great drainage. Use well rotted organic matter mixed in with peat free compost. Choose a spot with the most amount of sunshine in your garden. Turmeric will grow in USDA zones 8-11 and some colder regions, as well as the UK, but may well need mulch to protect from colder spells. For growing in colder climate check out the below information.
- Your turmeric rhizomes will have little shoots sprouting from the thicker fingers. This makes them ideal for planting but a heavy soil will really get in the way of growth. In their native habitat they will experience floods and rainy seasons with ease, because of this adequate drainage. You will need to try and recreate this climate. Space the rhizomes around 6 inches apart.
- Then cover them with that great well rotted manure and peat free compost mix to about 2 inches.
- Cover the bed over with a further two inches of mulch, in the second year you will be able to use the died back leaves of the turmeric plant. In the first year we would recommend cut back green manure as it adds plenty of nutrient rich content.
- Turmeric will really benefit from a good quality blood and bone mix, or if you want a vegan treatment go for chicken manure and then cover the mulch with this. We are very lucky to have chickens to produce the best organic manure however Miracle-Gro sell a great chicken manure available here and mixed into soil it will allow for slow release nutrients.
- Water the turmeric bed well. Keep watering throughout the year. Thinking about the native areas that turmeric grows in, try to replicate this in your garden or in pots or containers. This is where the good drainage comes in, the rhizomes should not be left to wallow in wet soil, but they do also need regular watering. The mulch should keep the weeds suppressed and allow the shoots from your rhizomes to come through.
- If you are growing the turmeric in pots or containers, be realistic about how much you want to harvest. Then size the pots accordingly. The larger the better as ideally you will be harvesting some to eat and some to grow the following season – hence how you will grow your crop for free.
- A liquid feed can be helpful through the growing period as we have 200-300 days until harvest, expect a lot of maintenance. The turmeric plant will grow to be around 1m in height with a central flower. This is when full sunlight will really come in useful.
- Once the leaves have died back you are ready to harvest your rhizomes.
People often ask us ‘can you grow turmeric from store bought?’ If you have bought organic rhizomes then the answer may well be yes. The reason you may struggle is the non-organic type of turmeric is because it is often sprayed with a chemical retardant. This is because the rhizomes are so keen to sprout that they will do so in the supermarket. It is thought to be unsightly and put customers off buying them. So if it is organic, give it a try, but if not don’t put the time and effort in.
How To Grow Turmeric In The UK
This is a little different as we may not expect to grow flowers in the UK or even to be able to move it outside. Here are my top tips to getting the most from this wonderful plant.
- Work backwards from the first frost. Last year it was as early as October so ten months before that is December. This is when you can plant your turmeric rhizomes. These are the tubers that the plant will grow from.
- Soak the rhizomes of turmeric for a few hours before planting in the pots.
- Plant indoors in smaller pots. You will be able to transplant the turmeric once it has sprouted, but for ease now we put them into 3-5 inch pots.
- Add good drainage and a really good quality compost, one with a slow release organic fertiliser added. Lay the rhizomes flat in each pot. If the rhizomes are very large, you can cut them down to 2- 3 inch ‘thumbs’. Cover over with another 2 inches of soil and water well.
- From December until around mid-March these min pots of turmeric will remain indoors, but will need to remain well watered throughout. This is a balancing act as you want to avoid root rot, but they will not tolerate being dry at all either. So to make this as easy as possible for you, put them into clear plastic bags. This acts like a new layer to keep them warm, but also to protect against water loss.
- By using a heat mat you will get a faster germination and this may be necessary if nothing has popped up within a few months. Once the last fear of frost has passed you can move your turmeric plants to an outdoor location.
- You will need the sunniest spot in your garden, hopefully with more than 8 hours a day of sunlight. This will work really well for growing more rhizomes to harvest and eat, but if you want to see your plant flower you may not be lucky in the UK. Turmeric may well do better in a conservatory or heated green house.
- Water with a liquid feed during growing months and keep the feed nitrogen rich. Something like a borage or comfrey tea is recommended.
Harvesting Your Turmeric
- Wait until the turmeric leaves have died back and you can snap them from the top of the soil. Then move them to one side for now. You will come back to use them again for next year.
- No spade or fork is required here as you should have used a soil which you can sort of rummage around with your hands. So get stuck in and start to pull out the larger than ever rhizomes.
- Collect half of these for processing as below and save enough turmeric rhizomes for next years harvest to be twice as large! This way by around the third year, you will find that you are over run with gorgeous golden spice!
- To store the turmeric rhizomes for next years harvest will only mean you need to keep them free from rot and drying out for two months. This is because of the ten month growing cycle. So use an apple box with sand/soil mix and cover the tubers. Store them then in a dry, cool place. But try to avoid freezing. We keep ours in a the garage to make sure they are just that little bit warmer. Ideally not below 10 degrees.
How To Store Fresh Turmeric
There are several ways to store fresh turmeric and clean and dried rhizomes will last in the fridge for around 6 months. If you need the tubers to last even longer you can store in the freezer. However you may well want to have dried turmeric to hand for cooking and teas, so many people ask on our social media channels how they can make their own turmeric powder? So here is a step by step guide to making turmeric powder.
- Wash your freshly harvested turmeric rhizomes in warm running water, but leave the skin on.
- Place them in a pot with cold water covering them completely, bring to the boil.
- Simmer the turmeric rhizomes for around 45-60 minutes. This depends on the pieces, so try and cut any larger pieces down to make them all as average as possible. You may do this in batches with similarly sized rhizomes together.
- You should be able to pop a fork into the turmeric without any resistance.
- Wear gloves from this point onwards!!
- Run the turmeric rhizomes under cold water to give them a quick cool before trying to rub the skins off. Bringing them from boiling water to the coldest your tap will run helps to ‘shock’ the skin, making it easier to take away the skin.
- You can then set your oven to the lowest setting and arrange the turmeric rhizomes on a single layer of baking paper to each tray. Pop the trays into the oven and keep checking on them regularly. You may want to set a timer for an hour but it may take a lot longer. Alternatively set them out in the sun and remember to turn them occasionally. Our preferred method is to use a dehydrator, we have a full how to guide here.
- Once you can snap the turmeric with your fingers then you know it is ready to come out of the oven.
- Use a coffee grinder or spice mill that you can buy via amazon here to produce fine turmeric powder.
- Store in an air tight container and use as and when required. We love to make tea and latte with turmeric due to it’s health benefits but it is also a great substitute for saffron in cooking.
Possible Health Benefits Of Turmeric
This is our main reason to grow our own turmeric. You can’t get better than fresh herbs and spices grown organically without any sprays or unwanted pesticides. Some supermarkets use chemicals retardants on their rhizomes and this means you are basically grating that straight into your food. Far better to grow your own and enjoy this process as a family, however if you do not feel confident with growing your own you can buy organic turmeric powder online here.
So, what are the health benefits of turmeric? Unlike may herbs and spices which have historical claims as treatments, turmeric has scientific studies to back up its health claims. The rhizomes Curcuma longa L. (Zingiberaceae family) contain bioactive curcuminoid polyphenols which have links to a range of treatments. An important paper by Dr Keith Singletary, published in Nutrition Today has some great insights into the possible future of the studies. Here is a list of some of the ways turmeric has been linked to treatments and cures.
- Viral infections – taking turmeric as a tea or drink can be linked to it’s anti-inflammatory effects. Not meaning that it cures the root cause for the infection, but that it may be able to lessen the effects.
- Headaches and migraines. As turmeric is part of the ziniberaceae family it is often associated with the same ailments as ginger, it’s close relative. To truly release the active ingredients in turmeric black pepper is also a must.
- Arthritis and joint pain seems to be one of the most significant areas for improvement once patients start to take a regular course of turmeric. The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric prove to be very useful here in relieving pain and allowing for an increase in movement.
- There is more research required, but Alzheimer’s Disease is thought to be an inflammation that can be relieved by the use of turmeric. Taken orally in capsule form turmeric can be seen to delay the deterioration in patients.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferers have seen a great reduction in the painful nature of the illness. Spasms may well be reduced as well. Turmeric is active when taken orally and with black pepper to help activate those useful properties of curcumin.
- Heart Disease and the use of turmeric has been trialed with some positive results. The ability of curcumin to reduce inflammation whilst increasing antioxidants could prove useful. British Heart Foundation dietitian Laura Founder does warn of the size of the trial, and as ever more research is needed.
- Turmeric helps to actively reduce microbial production which is known as the bacteria that can lead to acne. It is also thought that the anti-inflammatory properties can help clear up long term scarring to the skin.
How To Use Turmeric
Turmeric can be taken orally in capsule form or in teas or infusions. You can add it to cooking and enjoy it that way as well.
You can purchase organic turmeric curcumin vegan capsules here and in many ways it is easier to consume the recommended dosage this way. By drinking as a tea you can also control the amount you consume each day, however life can get in the way and the best laid plans can come unstuck.
Trying to eat a regular dose of curcumin in your cooking is a tough one, but it is very enjoyable to cook with. Turmeric provides that unmistakable vibrant yellow colour.
It may take a bit of time and effort to grow but turmeric is a great addition to any cottage garden. Even in colder pats of the UK it can be a satisfying crop to harvest and then process. Be very wary and make sure to wear gloves or have yellow hands for a few more days to come!
You can make turmeric into a herbal infusion, or even a decoction. We have a free guide available here.
For more inspiration on growing exotic herbs check out some of our other articles.