Turmeric – Curcuma longa – is so much better if it’s fresh. This perennial ginger like rhizome has a light crunchy texture and mild zingy flavour somewhat like a ginger infused carrot. It has a nice long lingering refreshing mouth feel and flavour too. It starts mild and then just keeps going in the mouth so you taste it for a long time afterwards.
Comparing it with the cooked and dried ground Turmeric powder is a lot like the comparison between dried coriander seeds and fresh cilantro leaf. They are almost different spices or herbs. It is worth growing your own if you have the climate for it.
They love heat and warm weather with a rich light and loose nutrient laden soil and lots and lots of water and direct sun heat if possible on the leaves. They grow best in the ground but to get them growing in a cold environment you can put them in a large black plastic pot and put them in a warm spot so the soil around the rhizome stays warm all the time.
Otherwise they are pretty trouble free and don’t tend to have many insect issues or other problems. They can get rot if grown in cool water logged soil.
You can see really easily when they are doing well as the leaves are numerous and strong and the base of the stems thicken up and sprout new growths continually during the summer growth period. The tend to form the tubers from mid summer onwards till mid winter when they just seem to stop and go to sleep and drop many of their leaves – or they can brown off and dry out with a hot dry period. I guess that is their original pattern of growth as they move into a dry period with monsoonal rains and dry patterns.
They form many nodules on their rhizomes that spread out over time.
It is best to separate some of them out and make more space each year if you want more production. However leaving them alone is an OK strategy too but they will get congested over time and need way more food like manures the next season.
It’s a satisfying plant to grow – it looks very attractive, is generally very productive and is not invasive or too large. There is little preparation required for eating it or for growing it. Just snap a piece of the rhizome off and plant it in a warm spot near the surface of the soil till it sprouts. Then mulch it heavily as it grows to help maintain a moist soil.
You just harvest them as needed – it’s mainly best when the tops of the plants have dried off like this and pull away easily from the rhizome root system.