Cultivate Turmeric and Extract its Spice
Turmeric is an elegant plant, useful to flavor our dishes. Here’s how to grow it to make saffron of India.
What is Curcuma?
Turmeric is a perennial plant native to the Far East and Australia. It belongs to the family of Zingiberaceae and includes 90 different species of plants, the most common are:
Curcuma Alismatifolia and Curcuma Longa, the latter is the one that interests us most, from leather you can get the delicious spice.
The plants are composed of a large rhizome, the leaves are very large and the flowers are really beautiful and flashy, the typical color is white/yellow.
It is from the rhizome that you get the precious spice called Curcuma, used in cooking as an aroma characterizing the flavor. But let’s proceed with order.
How To Cultivate Turmeric?
I want to start immediately with a tip: Curcuma is a delicate plant compared to other aromatic plants, it is preferable to grow it in pots. That’s why.
Precisely for this reason, having it in a pot, allows us to place it outside in early spring with the most pleasant temperatures, sheltered during the cold winter climate. The ideal summer temperature is between 28/35 degrees Celsius.
Being tropical it loves heat and humidity, while it cannot tolerate temperatures that fall below 12/15 °. In Italy, in fact, it is cultivated as a houseplant.
Another advice is to grow this plant by burying the rhizomes in the house as early as March, we can find them in the most well-stocked garden centers, or online. After about a month, we might notice the first shoots, with the mildest temperatures and stable at night, you can take the pot outside.
The Curcuma Alismatifolia can be purchased in many already formed nurseries, considered a houseplant, given its beautiful flowering. While we will hardly find the Curcuma longa, so it will be easier to buy rhizomes.
To grow it you need to bury the latter in a large rectangular pot, to accommodate the roots that expand horizontally. The soil we are going to use is a mix of soil, sand and peat. When we take the plant outside we should choose a damp place, very bright and away from direct sunlight of the hottest hours, the morning sun is beneficial. If the place is not humid enough, it is necessary to make up for it by spraying the leaves to wet them.
Turmeric during the summer months requires enough water, but does not tolerate waterlogging, so test the soil with a finger. If it is dry, you can proceed with irrigation without exaggerating. Be careful not to leave the soil dry for too long. Empty the water from the saucer if provided. During the autumn, bring the plant back into the house in a bright position. The leaves and the plant will begin to dry out, significantly reduce watering. The winter period requires very little water, so water sporadically only in case of completely dry soil. Let’s wait for the following spring.
We can say that the Curcuma, if cultivated and cared for with the right precautions, is a plant that can live for a long time repeating every year the life cycle.
After having understood how to cultivate the plant of the Curcuma, let’s go to see what to do to get the Saffron of India from its roots, to then preserve it and use it.
As we have specified, it is from the roots of Curcuma Longa that the spice is obtained. This happens after about 8/10 months from the beginning of the life cycle, practically at the end of winter.
How do you do it?
At this time, dig the soil, subdividing the rhizomes gently and take some roots, not all. Leave some in the pot and cover the whole with the soil. In this way, in the following spring, the plant will give birth to new shoots.
How to Preserve Curcuma
Turmeric can also be consumed fresh. It is necessary to clean up the root we have taken from the ground, put it in the fridge and consume it within about 4 weeks. Otherwise the most used method is to reduce it to powder.
The roots must be dried for about a month, in a dry and ventilated place. Obtain a food processor and then reduce the same roots of Curcuma powder. Once this is done, all you have to do is put the chopped spice in a glass jar and close it again. Store away from light and heat sources.