Fresh turmeric root – how to grow

Peeled, fresh turmeric root. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

A few weeks ago, a “foodie” friend came to stay. He lives in rural Yorkshire, and just before he left home to head north to Scotland, he was amazed to find fresh turmeric root in his local village shop.

I haven’t cooked with fresh turmeric since I left London, over 12 years ago, so to be gifted some of this wonderful root was a real treat. Turmeric is most usually used as a dry, yellow powder in a curry dish; it has a pleasant fragrant/pungent flavour, and gives a warm glow to whatever it is cooked with. Used fresh, it has the same qualities, but the flavour is more earthy, flowery and mellow. Take care when preparing, as it stains anything it comes into contact with. I peeled the root with a vegetable peeler and cooked a few strips with some Basmati rice (see below – it tasted delicious!). Realising how much I missed this fresh spice, I decided to try to grow the remaining  roots to see if I might have my own fresh supply in the future.

Cooked Basmati rice with fresh turmeric. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Keeping in mind that I live in central Scotland, I wondered whether I might have trouble getting germination underway – I discovered that the roots need 20-30°C to get sprouting and I don’t have a heated greenhouse or a propagator. However, I believed that time was on my side: I was given the roots in June. Here’s how I went about it.

Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

Plant the roots, bud side uppermost, in loose, well draining, potting soil and cover with a layer of the same soil about 5cm deep. I wrapped the pots in fleece and them covered them with 3 plastic cloches. If you live in a warmer place, a plastic bag over the top of each pot would probably be sufficient. Keep the pots in full sun or partial shade. The pots need regular watering, and need a temperature range between 20 to 30°C to germinate.

So, all the above happened back in the middle of June. Finally, at the very end of August, I noticed 2 wee green shoots poking out 2 of the pots. Success! I have managed to germinate 2 out of the 5 roots I planted, and this is what they look like just now…….

New shoots of fresh turmeric. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

As Autumn is on the way, the days are shortening, and the nights are getting cooler, I will have to bring them indoors and try to keep them alive throughout a Scottish winter – apparently it doesn’t survive below 9°C. Fingers crossed….I’ll keep you posted.

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