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Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to grow turmeric from store-bought rhizomes

1. Fresh turmeric rhizomes
The edible part of turmeric are the leaves, rhizomes, flowers and inflorescences. The whole plant is aromatic. However, the long, thin roots visible in the picture above are not used in cooking.

Young turmeric rhizomes are light orange while matured ones are a darker orange in colour. Thinly sliced/finely grated fresh young rhizomes can be eaten raw as "ulam" (herbs and vegetables eaten raw, usually with rice and sambal belacan for health and beauty). It is an ingredient in "jamu" (traditional Malay herbal remedy) for beauty (anti-aging) and health after delivery.

To make turmeric powder, the rhizomes are boiled and dried before being pounded into powder form.

Turmeric rhizomes are grated/pounded/juiced and used in marinades and seasoning for meat dishes before roasting, grilling, frying or cooking. Turmeric is also used to flavour meat in kebabs and satay. For convenience many modern cooks have switched to using turmeric powder made from pounded dried turmeric rhizomes. But we believe that the secret to excellent taste lies in the freshness of the ingredients used. Frozen/refrigerated/preserved turmeric can never achieve the authentic taste of our Asian cuisine because the fresh aroma is missing.

 Long ago, before the invention of the refrigerator, turmeric used to season meat also helped as a natural preservative.

Turmeric impart a natural yellow colour to rice, glutinuous rice, meat, sauces and other dishes. So if you come to Asia and get hold of a packet of spice powder with turmeric as an ingredient, the yellow colour that stains you fingers and utensils may not be the toxin/poison you worry about. Turmeric stains are yellow and temporary, it can be washed off with a dishwasher.




2. Sprouted turmeric plants
Scientific name: Curcurma longa
Synonym: Curcurma domestica

Common names: Turmeric, Kunyit (Malay), Yellow Ginger (Chinese)

Family: Zingiberaceae
Category: Perennial herb
Origin: South and Southeast Asia.

Uses: Natural yellow food dye, preservative, flavour to food, traditional medicine


We can grow turmeric plants from store-bought rhizomes, or from freshly dug-up ones. Select the plump ones and bury them in rich, moist but well-draining soil - in a container or on the ground. Shoots will appear in about 2-4 weeks. Water adequately and fertilize fortnightly. Grow under full to partial sun. Turmeric plants produce larger rhizomes when grown in the open under the full sun. Flowering occurs in about 5 months time and the rhizomes are ready to be harvested in 7-10  months.

“How to grow turmeric from store-bought rhizomes”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ http://www.mynicegarden.com/ on September 6th, 2012.

3. Turmeric plants

Turmeric plants can reach a height of 0.5-1m tall. Light green leaves overlap to form a pseudostem. The rhizomes grow underground and branch out into a dense clump. Inflorescences are borne at the end of the leafy shoots.

Tumeric leaves add a distinct flavour to rendang (dried curry) and curry dishes. Fresh turmeric leaves are knotted and cooked in the curry. The young shoots can be eaten as ulam.

4. Turmeric inflorescence
My turmeric plant has not produced flowers yet. Pictures no. 4 and 5 are taken at the rooftop Secret Garden of 1-Utama. The above is a turmeric inflorescence.

5. Closeup of turmeric flowers
The real turmeric flowers are yellowish-white in colour. They are small and inconspicuous, shadowed by the large and showy pale-green bracts. The flowers are sterile, hence they are unable to produce viable seeds. Propagation of turmeric plants is solely from rhizomes.

The flowers and inflorescences can be eaten as ulam (salad).

This is my entry for Fertilizer Friday hosted by Glenda at Tootsie Time, here.

Updated on 19th April 2016 : Further Reading
1. Further reading on health benefits and recipes with turmeric, visit this link - The Health Benefits of Cooking with Turmeric  at www.echnoherbalist.com founded by Dr. Kevin Curran.
2. Further reading about the turmeric plant, visit this link - Background on Turmeric, also from Dr. Kevin Curran website.

34 comments:

  1. Turmeric makes a fabulous garden plant too!

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    Replies
    1. Mark and Gaz, yes, we can grow turmeric for its foliage.

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  2. Perfect timing Ms Belle! Just bought some turmeric from the store yesterday and was about to ask you how to grow them :) Thanks!
    Ms Belle, you missed an 'r' in your 4th paragraph. I believe it's 'stains your fingers'. You don't have to publish this ya.

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    1. Ash, you can grow turmeric by the window. Thank you very for highlighting the typo error. Aha, I think we have gone a step higher as blog friends. Andrea also like to correct my errors. I am very grateful for that.

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  3. Oh yes, rendang without shredded turmeric leaves just don't taste quite the same.

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    1. Sean, you know something? I was wondering about a certain unique flavour in rendang. I thought it was the spices used. Then when I grow my own turmeric plant, I discovered the answer in the leaves, in that subtle but distinct aroma. Now I just love to put my nose close to the turmeric leaves just to bask in the fragrance :)

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    2. Just like you, I have always wondered what was that aroma in rendang. Until a friend showed me how to cook rendang, did I realise that it was in the turmeric leaves and not in the ground spices.

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  4. Mine hasn't flowered either, and i hope they will flower this year. Good you posted them, at least I know what to expect. My other curcuma i got from the mountains, also haven't flowered as well. I use the powder, but we seldom use it as much as the Malaysians and the Indians.

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    Replies
    1. Andrea, I am in the same status with you, waiting patiently for my turmeric to flower.

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  5. That turmeric is quite new to me. Have a nice Thursday!

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    1. Sadun, turmeric is common in Malaysia. You can find turmeric leaves, rhizomes and sometimes flowers at the wet market and supermarket shelves.

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  6. Here in San Diego the Turmeric plant dies down in winter and comes back in early summer. At the end of growing season, I let the leaves brown and dry up on the plant. I will then collect the leaves, crush and bottle them. I will use the crushed dried turmeric leaves until fresh leave are available again.

    Is there any difference between the orange and the yellow color turmeric?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mom on Blog, Yellow/lighter colour tumeric is young ginger while darker orange-brown is old ginger. I use grated/pounded young ginger (rhizomes) to cook Turmeric Chicken and old ginger for marinades, seasoning and curries. In Turmeric Chicken (lightly fried), the grated turmeric will taste bitter if old ginger is used.

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  7. Thanks Autumn Belle for the wonders of Tumeric. Now, after reading most of the comments, I should treasure more of my backyard garden's tumeric which are in real abundant!!!!

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    1. Dew, my new discovery was in the edible leaves and flowers. Many people begin to use more turmeric in their cooking because of the anti-cancer properties.

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  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Sweety, thank you very much for visiting My Nice Garden. I am very sorry that I have to delete your comment as it has a link to a commercial website. Nevertheless, if you wish to advertise on my site or wish to include your link in My Garden Directory, please send an email to mynicegardenblog[at]gmail.com.

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  9. The flower can be eaten? That's good news for me! I never eatan them before!

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    Replies
    1. Malar, the flowers can are edible as ulam. You can google "ulam bunga kunyit" for some recipes. Some people believe it is good for beauty and anti-aging.

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  10. Thanks for such an interesting post about tumeric. I learned a lot. I did not know you could eat the leaves and flowers.

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    Replies
    1. L. Ambler, the leaves are used in cooking rendang curries. The young shoots and flowers are eaten raw as ulam in Malay dishes.

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  11. I really must try some of these "root" plantings! These posts are fun and inspirational, Autumn Belle!

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    Replies
    1. Beth, this is the easiest to grow of the 3 gingers I have featured so far, i.e. galangal, common ginger and turmeric. You may need more watering or more muddy soil in your climate zone, but I'd be interested to know your progress if you do grow them :)

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  12. Am glad you were able to post again, which i missed this Friday. I have my turmeric planted on the ground in the property for about 2 yrs but haven't flowered. We don't often use the rhizomes as commonly as in your country and Indonesia, but I learned how to eat rice with turmeric powder, as in Java rice. I've been reading "ulam" at MNGC, i thought it is viand as we use here, now learned it is salad!

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  13. where do i buy these rhizomes? Can you show me any sicure website?

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    Replies
    1. In Asian countries, we buy turmeric ginger from the wet markets. The 'roots' which are used in cooking are actually the rhizomes (underground stems) - just bury them in soil and the green shoots will come out.

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  14. Can I plant turmeric not with a rhizomes but using the plant itself where rhizomes are already removed? Please email me @ antejosaphat@gmail.com. Thanks

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    1. Phat, you need to use the rhizomes. We can't propagate new plants without the rhizomes, eg from cuttings of leaves.

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  15. I would like to tag onto Phat's question if you don't mind for further clarification as I am a turmeric newby. After I removed all of the rhizomes from my turmeric plants, the plants still had roots like any other plant... so I potted all my turmeric plants and put them in my greenhouse for the winter. I realize you cant propagate new plants from cuttings, but these are plants that have roots even though there are no rhizomes. Did I waste my time planting the plants? will my plants come back to life in future months or just die and never to be seen again? thank you! - Lynne

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    1. Lynne, the rhizomes are needed to propagate new plants. If you are harvesting the turmeric, you need to leave behind or select fat rhizomes (which may have roots attached) to propagate. Afterall, rhizomes are actually the underground stems of turmeric. No rhizomes, no new plants. The rhizomes have nodes from where the shoots will grow. The success rate is better when the rhizomes are at least the size of a whole 'finger'. The clump of dug out rhizomes looks like a hand with many fingers right? Plants with only a little segment of the rhizome finger attached, even with roots are not likely to take off I guess.I'd love to hear from those who succeeded.

      To know if your plant will come back to life or has died, you need to check what's under the soil. If the thing has rotted off, then that should be the end. If there is still a juicy hard rhizome, then it may just be dormant and there is hope when spring comes.

      But then again, I have no experience growing turmeric in temperate countries so I'm sorry if I can't give you good advice.

      I'm very thankful for your feedback and query.

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  16. Thank you so much for the reply Autumn. I think I will experiment. Since I live in zone 5, I will bring one plant inside my garage so it doesn't freeze and see what it does. I will let you know if it does anything. Thanks again! - L

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    1. That'll be great! Looking forward to your reply. :)

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  17. I bought frozen organic turmeric rhizomes from my local health food store. Can I use them for root plantings??

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    Replies
    1. I have never tried using frozen turmeric rhizomes before. Will be happy to hear from anyone who has the appropriate advice.

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