Plant File: Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) likes the tropics, and it likes a drink! It’s a native of southeast Asia, and is happiest growing in temperatures between 20 °C and 30 °C. Turmeric is related to ginger, being part of the same plant family, Zingiberaceae, and like ginger, it is harvested for its rhizomes. When they aren’t used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled and dried in hot ovens, then finely ground into the recognisably rich deep orange-yellow powder we know as a delicious spice (and gorgeous dye).

The best time to plant turmeric is NOW! Yep, spring, after the soil has warmed up after the winter.

If you live in cool or dry climates it could be tricky, but if you live in the tropical or subtropical regions of Australia, I say, ‘give it a go!’

All you have to do is buy some fresh turmeric rhizomes from your local greengrocer, plant them around 5-7cm deep, water regularly, and within a few weeks you should start seeing some green shoots popping up. Grow in a sunny, to part sun position.

Plant your little orange friends around 15-30cm apart and harvest rhizomes after 9-10 months. You will notice that the clump has reached maturity when the lower leaves start turning yellow and falling off.

Tumeric, like most tropical plants, loves water! Make sure you keep it well watered and fertilize regularly with an organic liquid fertlizer or worm wee.

If you live in cool climates you could try growing it in a glasshouse. Or move to the tropics….

Now you know how to grow turmeric, how about learning how to cook AND dye with it?? You’ll be rather busy, and probably have yellow hands as a result.