Growing and harvesting a good quality Turmeric (Curcuma longa) in New Zealand is very popular.
Largely because of Turmeric's well-published health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory properties and its flavour and bold golden hue are added benefits.
Fresh turmeric has a warm somewhat resinous flavour that's milder then the dried spice. Supplies of fresh turmeric can be erratic, so it's worth trying to grow your own.
Where and How to start?
Although a relatively novel food crop in New Zealand, turmeric has actually been grown here for many years by ethnic Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani gardeners.
A member of the Zingiberaceae family, like most gingers turmeric is a tropical plant. Turmeric isn't fond of frost nor the cold so advisably and easily grown in containers, which can be moved indoors when the plant is dormant in winter.
You can buy plants from a Nursery from early summer, or have a crack at propagating your own plants from the edible rhizomes. Fresh roots (imported from Fiji) are available from many Indian spice and produce traders as well as at weekend markets or even supermarkets in larger centres.
Fresh turmeric rhizomes resemble small, rather emaciated ginger roots with brilliant orange flesh that softly glow through their tan-coloured skins. To grow your own turmeric, choose the largest, least shriveled roots you can find. Leave these in a warm, dry place out of direct sun until shoots appear. This can take several weeks and, although not essential, it lessens the likelihood of the roots rotting before they begin to grow.
It's a good idea to plant two batches; one for harvesting in late autumn when the foliage dies down and one for producing next year's propagation roots.
Choose a large enough pot as the turmeric plant can get quite big!
The pot should be at least 12 inches deep and 12-18 inches wide. Plant only 1-2 rhizomes in one pot.
You should consider planting the rhizomes in spring or summer, once temperatures have reached at least 12C.
Break a large rhizome into several pieces. Each piece should have at least 2-3 buds.
Fill a pot (or, if planting directly into ground follow same procedures) with organic, moist soil that is well drained.
Place the rhizome pieces 2 inches below the soil surface with the buds facing up.
Water the pot thoroughly.
In warmer zones, keep your turmeric plant in partial sun, while in cooler zones, keep it in full sun.
How to care for your Turmeric crop:
Keep the soil moist and water regularly.
If the weather goes below 12C, bring your turmeric plant indoors. If planted in the ground, be careful when you dig up the rhizomes.
Fertilize once a month with an all-purpose fertilizer.
Your turmeric rhizomes should be ready for harvest in 8-9 months.
You'll know it's ready once the leaves become yellow and the stems start to dry.
Simply dig up the entire plant, careful not to break the roots.
Whatever you don't use, you can simply plant back.
From Turmeric Rhizomes to Turmeric Powder:
Remove their skin.
Place them in a tray and leave them in the sun to dry.
Once dried, you can place them in a food processor to make them into powdered turmeric!
Or keep them fresh and Freeze
Fresh turmeric roots shrivel quickly once harvested so they should be frozen for long-term storage. Frozen turmeric is easy to grate.