Turmeric (Curcuma longa), also called curcuma, turmeric, turmeric, yellow ginger or saffron root, is a plant of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). The botanical name derives from the Arabic word “al-krukum”. It means “saffron” and refers to the colouring property of the turmeric plant. Their colour has approximately the same shade as saffron, but the plants are not botanically related to each other.
The turmeric plant originates from China and India, where it has been cultivated and used for food and medicinal purposes for at least 5,000 years. The South Asian spice is already mentioned in the Vedas, the holy scriptures of Hinduism. The turmeric plant also plays an important role in Ayurvedic nutrition. For example, the powder is an essential component of curry powder and can be found in almost every dish. The yellow dye of the rhizome is also used for dyeing paper, textiles and ointments. The spice came to Europe via the Silk Road in the 13th century. In recent years, the plant active substances of the turmeric plant have been scientifically investigated here. The scientists were able to prove that the yellow powder, which is extracted from the root and contains curcumin, protects the body cells against inflammation and has an antiviral effect.
The turmeric plant is a persistent and herbaceous plant that can grow up to one metre high. Turmeric forms fleshy rhizomes, which are very similar to those of ginger and form tuberous secondary root stocks like these. The main root is two to five centimeters thick. In contrast to pale yellow ginger, the tuberous rhizomes of the turmeric plant are strikingly orange-yellow in colour.
The leaves of the turmeric are alternately arranged and glabrous. The leaf blades are 20 to 40 centimeters long and about 15 centimeters wide.
In its region of origin, the turmeric plant forms a cylindrical and spike-shaped inflorescence with numerous white or violet flowers on a cone-like pseudo-stem in August. The flowers are threefold.
The fruits are capsule fruits with three chambers.
The turmeric plant needs a warm, semi-shade location with high humidity. It grows optimally in winter gardens or greenhouses at temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. The temperature should not drop below 12 degrees Celsius, otherwise the leaves will die.
The soil should be rich in nutrients and humus. A mixture of two thirds conventional potting soil and one third coarse sand has proven to be a good substrate.
As turmeric only thrives in a warm location all year round, it is best to cultivate the turmeric plant in a flat pot with a large diameter on the windowsill. You can place an approximately five centimeter long section of a rhizome in a pot of potting soil and cover it only lightly with soil. Turmeric rhizomes are available in organic shops and health food stores. Moisten the substrate and possibly cover the pot with foil to increase the humidity. Place the potted turmeric plant in a semi-shady place at a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius and keep the soil moist at all times. After a few weeks the rhizome is rooted and sprouts above ground.
Keep the substrate moist with lime-free water without causing waterlogging. Here a drainage layer of expanded clay helps. Every four weeks you should also supply the turmeric plant with liquid fertiliser. Dead leaves should be removed continuously.
Harvesting and conservation
The rootstock of the turmeric plant can be harvested as soon as the plant is about one metre tall and the upper leaves have withered. This is usually the case in winter. Excavate the rhizomes and free them under the tap from all earth remains. Then dry them with a towel and remove the outer skin as thin as possible with a peeler. It is best to wear a kitchen apron and disposable gloves, as the root tissue is strongly coloured. Cut the rhizome into slices three to five millimetres thick and place them in the oven on baking paper or in a drying machine. At 80 degrees in the oven, the turmeric slices are dried with the flap slightly open (cooking spoon between clamps) until they are no longer flexible and can easily be broken through. Now pour the dried slices into a blender and chop them into fine powder. As a spice, turmeric powder is added to cooked vegetables, soups and salad dressings. It can easily be stored in a sealed glass in darkness and cool temperatures for one year.
Curative effects of turmeric
The turmeric plant contains curcumin, polysaccharides and essential oils. It has been scientifically proven that curcumin has an anti-inflammatory effect and the daily consumption of turmeric can lower the inflammatory molecules in the blood. For this reason the root is partly also called “magic bulb”. As a preventive measure, turmeric powder is also used against cancer. The active substance must be dissolved in oil so that it can be absorbed by the organism. And: Black pepper increases the absorption capacity of turmeric considerably, as studies have shown. The bitter turmeric longa also stimulates the digestive juices and thus the appetite. In addition, liver function and bile function are promoted. For a tea from the turmeric root, pour a cup of boiling water over half a teaspoon of the powder and let it steep for five minutes. You can also cut the fresh root into thin slices and pour hot milk over them.
The turmeric plant can be reproduced vegetatively very easily by dividing the rhizomes. They are placed so flat on the breeding ground that they protrude about halfway.
Diseases and pests
The turmeric plant is relatively robust against diseases and pests.
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.