Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Growing Turmeric and it's health benefits

Turmeric, planted two months ago

New Guinea bottle brush offering some  shade for the turmeric growing below

Turmeric along with ginger, is now recognised as a great anti-inflammatory, and will increase blood circulation,  therefore increasing energy levels. There is also active research into its value for preventing dementia. Instead of just using powdered turmeric, grate the fresh root along with fresh ginger, and use them in your scrambled eggs for a zingy start to the day.

Turmeric powder
We have just returned home from holidaying in lush, tropical Cairns over Christmas, and it is always with excitement that on our return we  head straight for our garden to discover what has survived during what must be the hottest time of the year. The stars of the show this time are the turmeric and the capsicum plants. I planted the capsicums from seedlings three months ago, and now have fully sized green capsicums, looking forward to their first blush of ripening red.

The turmeric roots (rhizomes) however spent many weeks on my laundry windowsill during October and November last year, in bottles filled with moistened brown paper and newspaper, waiting for the first shoots to appear, and they did. Remember the science experiments we did in Primary school, with beans in bottles waiting for the first shoots to appear. It still works. I collected turmeric roots from various sources and now have quite a productive patch of turmeric growing well in the garden, some bright orange and some yellow.

Curcuma longa (Haldi) W IMG 2440.jpg
Curcuma longa.  Turmeric flowers

Turmeric is a perennial plant of the ginger family,  meaning it should last for two years, however the foliage generally dies back in winter. It should also produce attractive flowers. I am now waiting, hoping that my turmeric plants produce flowers.

Native turmeric in the bush near Cooktown, Northern Australia

The commercial growers dig up the turmeric, sell the bulk of the crop, and plant new roots. I store what I need, and start  sprouting some more for the following summer's planting. As we all know, the dried aromatic root has been ground to a brilliant yellow powder and used in commercial curry powders in the East for centuries, as well as being used as an ingredient in chutneys and pickles. Visit any Turkish or Eastern bazaar and turmeric is central to the kaleidoscope of colours found there, as is it's scent.

One of the first recipe books I was ever given and which I still treasure is Rosemary Hemphill's "Cooking with herbs and spices." In her chapter on turmeric, her recipes for Kedgeree, tropical potato salad, French dressings, devilled eggs, and fish stews all used powdered turmeric. Now with the availability of fresh turmeric root at local markets, and friend's gardens, we should all be looking after our health and grating fresh turmeric into our salads, our egg dishes, our fish dishes for that extra flavour, colour and zing. However don't despair, powdered turmeric will still provide some limited health benefits and wonderful flavour and colour to your dishes.

If you are travelling or camping, fresh turmeric rhizomes are very transportable, just take your grater with you and your plastic gloves. Remember, though, it will stain your hands yellow. It is used as a dye in the East for cottons and silks, but not hands.

Do you prefer to cook with powdered or fresh turmeric? Please tell me dear reader if you have been successful with growing turmeric or do you buy turmeric root from the supermarket?

Warm wishes



  1. I've never grown it but I bought some fresh turmeric at the market-mainly because I had heard all about its health benefits! :D

  2. Hi ! I too am retired and now garden and cook. We have both turmeric and ginger planted and growing in our south Georgia gardens. Your site is beautiful! Jeannie


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