Turmeric/haldi or Curcuma Longa is a rooting plant in the ginger family. It is used in leaf and root form, as a culinary accompaniment, in pickles and in seasoning. There are about 30 varieties of turmeric grown commercially in India including Local Haldi, China Scented, Thodopuza, Red Streaked & Alleppey and of course the famous Amba Haldi, Kasturi Manjal and Black Turmeric.
SEASONS: Turmeric is a seasonal plant. It is very well suited for Mumbai’s climate. It is ideally sown during the monsoons and grown through the year for harvest by spring/summer.
PROPAGATING: This plant is easily propagated from rhizomes, or segments of root. It also gives out young ones, or “pups”, that can be re-planted.
GERMINATING: not relevant for turmeric.
PLANTING OUT: Choose fresh, unrefrigerated root segments which have at least 1 or 2 nodes. Plant out in holes about 2 inches deep in well-drained, well-composted and manured soil whose pH level could range from slightly acidic, to neutral, to slightly alkaline. Choose a very sunny spot as this plant will thrive in strong sunlight and gets very dispirited in the shade. If you choose to re-plant pups, then dislocate them gently from the mother plant and place in soil without any delay. Space out your segments/pups about 8-10 inches apart, leaving space for its roots to grow out. Turmeric will grow well on open plots, but deep containers are preferable as they keep the soil moist and are convenient at the time of harvest.
NURTURING: First shoots will emerge from your planted root segments within 1-2 weeks. Turmeric requires minimal nurturing as this plant tends to discourage weeds and harmful insects, and is never preyed on by squirrels, rodents, birds or other pests. It will pretty much take care of itself as long as you water it regularly. Prune drying side leaves from time to time.
HARVESTING: You can harvest turmeric for leaves (used in steamed rice preparations) and roots. Leaf harvesting can be done throughout plant growth by snipping off fully formed side leaves. Root harvesting is done when the plant begins to show you signs of dying with the yellowing of its leaves, and wilting of stem after 8 months or so of steady growth. If in open plot soil, use a broad shovel to dig out the entire plant. If in a container, upturn the container and excavate the entire plant. Chop off extraneous parts and wash roots well. It’s a joy to see the golden orange roots of turmeric emerging from dark brown soil at harvest! Do remember to use gloves, unless you want your hands to turn a lovely turmeric orange! As a great believer in turmeric and its natural goodness, I conserve my turmeric wash, adding it like holy water to my other containers to give sickly plants a boost of rejuvenating life! Wash and refrigerate freshly harvested turmeric root for use in food preparations. Otherwise prepare turmeric powder by evenly slicing freshly harvested turmeric root, boiling for 45 minutes, drying for a week in full sunshine, and then pulverizing into powder. Once you are done with your turmeric harvest and you still have the old soil in the container, then compost your plant, replenish the soil and grow your most ambitious fruiting veggie in that space. The turmeric would have done such a good job of purifying the soil that you are unlikely to get pests in that container for the next harvest!
First shoot of a turmeric plant at 3 weeks, and a young turmeric plant at 3 months
Turmeric flower (of some varieties), and harvested turmeric root
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