Turmeric is the main spice in yellow curry, giving it its warm flavor and golden coloring. Ongoing research suggests that turmeric may have extensive health benefits as well. Grown for its root, it’s much like ginger. And here’s the cool thing about it: growing turmeric is easy.
Of course, I live in a tropical region which means I can grow this healthy tuber outside, but even those of you who live in cooler climes can grow it in pots.
Most recipes call for the dried powder standard on your grocer’s spice rack, but if you’ve got fresh tubers on hand, you can use it instead.
Where to find roots to grow
Admittedly, finding the roots might be harder than actually growing it. Fresh turmeric — here it’s called ‘olena — is pretty readily available at our farmers markets. If you live in a cooler region, you might have better luck checking Asian supermarkets. It’s also available to order online.
To plant outdoors: Work the ground well and incorporate some compost into your planting area. Separate rhizomes into fingers that each have at least two buds. Plant, buds up, about 2-3″ deep and 12″ apart.
Leaves should start to appear in four to six weeks. The plants have lovely wide leaves and can work easily as part of a front yard landscape, so long as they’re placed somewhere that can be dug up once a year or so.
To plant in pots: Use a pot that’s roughly 12″ wide and just as deep. Fill with good quality potting soil, and set rhizome 2-3″ deep. You’ll only plant one finger in each pot. Turmeric likes it warm and will be fine outside during the summer months, so long as you keep the soil damp. It’s freezing weather that’s a problem — you don’t want the roots to freeze. You can start your turmeric plant inside during the early spring, move it outdoors for garden season, then — if it’s not ready to harvest yet, move it inside again when it starts to get cold.
Whether planted in the ground or in a pot, your turmeric plant will appreciate some protection from the hot midday sun.
When to harvest
Turmeric roots are actively growing when the leaves are a lush green. When the leaves start to brown and die back, it’s time to harvest. There are two ways you can do this. One, use a shovel to dig up the entire root ball. Alternatively, you can harvest just some of the turmeric by loosening the soil around the plant and harvesting from the outer part of the root ball, leaving the main portion of the root ball intact, much as you would harvest new potatoes. The plant will sprout green leaves again when it comes out of its dormancy, and produce fresh rhizomes. With this method, the center part of the root ball will get dark and soft. If you pull up an older plant, be sure to use just the robust bright orange fingers.
Wash the soil away from the roots and store in a cool, dry place. You’ll replant some of those rhizomes to start fresh plants. If the tubers start to sprout in storage, plant them as described above.
How to use fresh turmeric
As a dye: If you’ve ever used turmeric, you know that it stains terribly. Spill it on your counter, get it on your hands; the yellow will last for quite some time. You won’t be surprised to know that turmeric has been used as a dye for centuries.
Medicinally: While lately turmeric is the talk of the town — so to speak — in natural healing communities, its use as a nutritional supplement or herbal treatment is not new. These days, there’s discussion about its ability to aid osteoarthritis pain, reduce inflammation, or even assist in the treatment of cancer, but it’s been used medicinally for a long time. PBS talks about the history of turmeric and its medicinal uses.
It was around 500 BCE that turmeric emerged as an important part of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of natural healing that is still practiced today. Ayurveda translates to “science of life”– ayur meaning “life” and vedameaning “science or knowledge.” Inhaling fumes from burning turmeric was said to alleviate congestion, turmeric juice aided with the healing of wounds and bruises, and turmeric paste was applied to all sorts of skin conditions – from smallpox and chicken pox to blemishes and shingles.
Dry it: The dried powder will keep longer than the fresh roots. If you prefer keeping the powder on hand, you can make your own.
Cooking with turmeric: You can use fresh turmeric in place of powdered in recipes. Substitute a one inch piece of turmeric for one teaspoon of the ground spice. You’ll want to grate it finely for most recipes. One of the easiest ways to incorporate this healthy spice into your diet is to simply toss a piece of the fresh root into a smoothie. A one inch piece will do nicely; add more if you’re especially fond of the flavor it brings.
Recipes to try:
- 2 cups of milk (or substitute coconut milk)
- 1 teaspoon dried turmeric (or one-half inch fresh turmeric thinly sliced or diced)
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger (or one-half inch fresh ginger thinly sliced or diced)
- A sprinkle of black pepper
- Honey to taste
- Place milk in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Add turmeric, ginger, and pepper. Stir well if you are using the dried spices
- Let the milk begin to simmer — small bubbles will form on the sides of the saucepan. Stir.
- Allow to heat for another minute or two being careful not to let the milk overheat. Continue to stir at this point to get better heat distribution and so that you don’t end up distracte.
- Turn off heat, cover, and allow the mixture to sit for ten minutes or so to improve the infusion.
- Strain the milk through a strainer if you have used fresh ingredients.
- Serve warm.
- 3 large heads of organic garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 medium organic onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 – 4 inch piece of organic horseradish, coarsely grated
- 1 – 4 inch piece organic ginger, coarsely grated
- 1/2 tsp. organic cayenne spice
- 2 tbsp. organic turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp. organic astragalus
- 3 cup of raw organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup of local raw honey (optional)
Prepare all ingredients. Layer in 1 quart, mason jar. Fill jar with vinegar. Use a chop stick to release any trapped air. Cover with more vinegar, so that all vegetables are completely covered with vinegar. Let sit for 4 to 6 weeks, at room temperature. Shake daily or as often as you think of it.
Strain through cheese cloth. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the vegetables. Reserve the liquid. Feed the merk to your chickens or compost. To the liquid, add 1 cup of raw honey or to taste. (It is just as effective if you leave the honey out but it is spicier)
Note: 1 1/3 cups of honey equals 1 lbs. of honey.
Turmeric Tonic With Coconut Water, Ginger And Honey
- 2 cups coconut water (This brand doesn’t have any additives/preservatives)
- 2 inch knob fresh turmeric (1 oz weighed) OR 1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried turmeric
- 1 inch fresh ginger root (about 1/2 oz weighed)
- 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt (where to buy unrefined salt)
- 1-2 tablespoons honey (where to buy honey)
- pinch of black pepper (optional)
- Place coconut water, turmeric and ginger root in a blender and give it a whir.
- When the turmeric/ginger is finely shredded, strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a jar.
- 3, Add lemon juice, sea salt, and honey to taste. Serve, preferably with a food containing healthy fats and black pepper for enhanced absorption.
Turmeric Ginger Lemonade
- 4-5 cups spring water
- 1 to 2 teaspoon turmeric powder (we use Simply Organic )
- 1 to 2 teaspoon ginger or 1 tbsp fresh ginger root
- 1/4 cups or more lemon juice or juice of 1 lemon
- Lemon Slices
- 2 -4 tablespoon maple syrup or raw honey (adjust to desired sweetness)
- 1 tsp Optional Lemon extract or lemon powder (such as true lemon)
- Optional Stevia to sweeten more if desired
- Fresh Mint leaves
- Bring water to a light boil on the stove. Add in your spices and let it boil again for a minute, then reduce and simmer turmeric for 10 minutes. Remove from the stove and let it cool a bit. Then strain the liquid to get rid of excess ginger root or spice powder. Strain with a mesh strainer or cloth. Pour the rest of the liquid into a pitcher along with your lemon juice, extracts, and sweetener of choice. Mix again so that the maple syrup and lemon juice are combined with the turmeric ginger brew. x
- Garnish with extra lemon slices, fresh mint, and store in fridge. Add ice if desired but note it will dilute flavor.
- **Notes*- Simmering will extract the beneficial compounds from the turmeric and ginger
- Adapted from Whole Journey
Immune Boosting Hash Browns
- 5 medium sized potatoes, grated
- 2 eggs
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped very thinly
- 1/8 tsp turmeric or more to taste
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Grate the potatoes into a colander so the water and starch can drain out; you can put a plate as a weight on top of the potatoes to speed up the process.
- Transfer the potatoes to a mixing bowl and mix them and the rest of the ingredients with a large spoon.
- Meanwhile, heat a nice chunk of coconut oil or a generous amount of olive oil in your best frying pan.
- When the oil is hot, put a large dollop of the potato mix and smoosh it flat.
- Fry the hash browns about five minutes on each side until the potatoes are soft, opaque and browned on each side.
- Serve immediately with homemade ketchup or barbecue sauce.