How To Grow And Use Turmeric

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Turmeric is a culinary delight and a medicinal wonder! With very little work it can be added to anyone’s daily life and the benefits of using it are never-ending. Growing it may take patience and practice but it is certainly worth trying out!

It is such a versatile herb, with many healing properties we could all benefit from! It may seem like turmeric is new to the herbal scene but it has actually been used throughout history. I love my local, easy to find herbs. In fact, I usually focus my studies on herbs that grow easily in my backyard. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that turmeric meets that criteria. But I’m up for the challenge of trying.

When I started learning about turmeric I knew I had to try it out. So without any further ado, let’s jump into why I hope to become a master at growing this herb, and why you should too!

Turmeric Throughout History

You can find the use of turmeric dating back almost 4000 years. Looking back you’ll find it used as a spice and in religious ceremonies, along with its use in medicine. It was often used in Ayurveda, the Indian system of holistic medicine. It has now resurfaced in our modern times. Over the past two decades deeper research has been done and continues to be done on turmeric and all the benefits it may hold. Research so far has found turmeric is not toxic, even at very high does.  The book Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects also states that Turmeric has been found to have potent pharmacological properties.

How to Grow and Propagate Turmeric

Turmeric, a perennial, is a tropical plant. It enjoys a shady, moist habitat. Zones 8-11 can grow it completely outside. The rest of us have to grow it as a houseplant. It can be taken outside in the warmer months and placed in a shade-dappled spot. My winter goal is to get some turmeric growing indoors. This is a plant I want on hand always!

Growing turmeric indoors requires a large, deep pot and a warm spot for it to grow. It usually grows to be 12-24 inches tall. It likes rich, loamy or sandy soil. When growing in a pot use a loose soil mix.

Turmeric is propagated by root division. The fresh, divided root needs at least one eye on it. Lay the root sideways about two inches deep and keep the soil evenly moist. It takes several weeks for turmeric to sprout. Growing turmeric takes time but it will be worth the wait. After your first harvest, you will start the process all over again and that’s how you keep the turmeric going!


From the start of the plant to harvesting time can range from 8-10 months. The parts used include the rhizome and in some cases the tuber. Turmeric is ready to be harvested when the leaves and stems begin to turn brown. If you’re growing your turmeric in a pot, you can simply dump the pot and retrieve the rhizome. If your turmeric is in the ground you’ll have to dig it up. Cut back the leaves and stem just above the root. Pick what you will be harvesting, replant the rest and start the cycle all over.

Preservation and Storage

Now that you’ve got your harvest, how should you preserve it? The first step in any of the preserving methods is to wash the turmeric. After digging the turmeric, dust off all the dirt you can. Then you’ll wet it and scrub off the rest of the dirt. The next step is to peel the turmeric, this is optional but recommended if the skin is thick. After this, you can do a few things with your turmeric.

Turmeric root will keep in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 6 months. You can also freeze turmeric. You can freeze as is, in an airtight container or you can process it into a paste and freeze it. This is done simply by placing it in a food processor.  Place in a shallow dish, in a thin layer so you are able to break it apart easily. Ice cube trays are said to work well too.

If your aim is to make turmeric powder you’ll need to dehydrate the turmeric. To do this, take your cleaned up rhizomes, place them in a pot and boil them until they are easy to pierce with a fork. At this point, you can rub off the skins to remove them if you would like, then slice them in preparation for the dehydrator. Dehydrate them until the snap when bent. It can now be processed into a powder using a grinder or a mortar and pestle. You can learn more about this process in the Seed To Pantry School dehydrating class.

Buying Turmeric

If all that growing and preserving sounds like more work than you are ready for right now don’t worry, turmeric is easy to find for purchase. You can easily find it in the spice section at your grocery store. If you are planning to dig deep into using turmeric, I’d recommend buying it from a bulk herb supplier such as Mountain Rose Herbs or The Bulk Herb Store.  You’ll be saving a pretty penny! You can also find turmeric rhizomes for planting at different herb, seed and tree dealers.

Culinary Uses for Turmeric

Turmeric is one of the power players in most curry powders but that’s not even close to where it stops. You can add it to anything you’d like. It is a nice addition to broths and vegetable dishes. I personally make a turmeric paste and throw it in everything. (I use this recipe for the paste It is an important part of my morning smoothies and a lovely addition to a warm milk drink at the end of the day. This drink is also called golden milk. This paste is also AMAZING in eggnog! You don’t have to have the paste to add it to smoothies you could just throw in the powder or the frozen processed turmeric.

Healing with Turmeric

Now that you have a few ideas of how to add turmeric to your diet, I’ll tell you why you’d want to! This amazing herb is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, immune enhancing, just to name a few. Recent studies show it may have anti-tumor properties as well.

Just adding turmeric to your diet will boost your health. Many of us have very inflammatory diets and with a little bit of turmeric, you can help combat the inflammation process in your body. Be cautious when using it in great amounts because it can interact with pharmaceutical medications. Make sure you discuss its use with your doctor.

My father is the one who discovered that turmeric paste was good in eggnog. He was battling a high CRP lab value (a sign of inflammation and infection) and needed to get it down so he could have surgery. I gave him some paste and told him to drink it a few times a day. It was, of course, the holidays so why not add it to eggnog! It worked fantastically. Turmeric can also be a blood thinner, however, so I made sure he quit drinking it about two weeks before surgery.

It has immune-boosting powers that are right up there with echinacea, if not better than echinacea. It is great externally and internally for arthritis and other inflammatory situations. You can use a turmeric poultice externally on inflamed skin. Just mix the powder with enough water to make a paste and voila poultice!

Recent studies show it is stronger acting than hydrocortisone without the harmful side effects. Turmeric stimulates the flow of bile which encourages better digestion, specifically fats and oils and assists with gallbladder irritation. Turmeric is best paired with black pepper. The black pepper enhances the absorption into the body.

When you read about turmeric you’ll hear about its constituent curcumin. Curcumin is what makes turmeric yellow and is a large part of why turmeric is such a great anti-inflammatory. You can find extract of curcumin many places but personally, I would just skip it. I’m a firm believer that plants work best in their entirety and when we pull the most studied constituents out and use them alone, we lose so much of what the plant can do. Many herbalists report that they see better results with the whole plant rather than the curcumin extract.

Many studies are still being done on turmeric and I am sure there are many great things yet to come!

The Color of Turmeric

When you are working with turmeric be aware that you, your counters and your tools may show signs of your work for a few weeks. Turmeric is very good at dying things yellow. While most of us may not want yellow counters, there are some fun ways to use turmeric’s dying power. You can use turmeric to dye your Easter eggs, along with beets and blueberries. You can color homemade play-dough with it and you can even tie-dye t-shirts with it. Strangely enough, you can use it to brighten your teeth. With just a pinch of it in your homemade or store-bought toothpaste, you can whiten your teeth. Just don’t let it sit too long, it may have the opposite effect.

Hopefully, you found this helpful and are now rushing out to add turmeric to your kitchen or medicine cabinet; I can’t say enough about how wonderful turmeric has been in my life. I use it almost daily in one way or another and I can certainly feel the difference when I’ve gone a while without it.