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Turmeric

As we move into fall it is time to consider harvesting some of my outdoor Turmeric rhizomes. I planted a variety of plants this year. I ordered a pound of rhizomes from a Hawaiian grower, which have proved to be quite prolific. I have two pots full of large plants. I am hoping the rhizomes (called fingers) are plentiful under those large leafy plants. It is October and the plants are still green but they are starting to turn brown which is a sign to consider harvesting them for drying.  , I also planted additional rhizomes and plants from two other growers. They will not be ready for harvest this year. And finally, I have plants growing in areas I dug up last year with no results. They were in a raised bed and rain and too much watering destroyed most of the crop, however, because it is a hardy Turmeric variety, plants shot up this spring. They are not too big, like the ones in the pots, so I will not harvest them this year. Normally, if the plant is not growing in a tropical zone, you dig the entire plant up and store it inside. However, it seems my area. Zone 8 is suitable for leaving in the ground since my rhizomes left in the ground sprouted plants. I am not touching them until the fall of next year. We will see what happens.

I will carefully empty the pots and clean off the rhizomes. Some will be stored to be replanted in the spring and others will be dried to grind into delicious powder. Each “finger” is skinned using a spoon then sliced thin and placed on drying sheets. Dry in a dehydrator set at 140F (60 C). An oven is too hot for the rhizome. You can also dry them in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. The only caution in preparing Turmeric is the yellow pigment can stain anything it touches including your hands. Gloves are essential, unless you’re aiming for yellow-stained hands as a new fashion statement.

Today, you see Turmeric everywhere and in every form: powder, pill, liquid, and in edible concoctions. Historically, Turmeric has been used for thousands of years. It was used in India to worship the Sun and to ward off evil. Buddhist monks used it to dye their robes. It is believed it reached the Western world where it was known as Indian saffron. Today, it is still considered sacred and used in various rituals. As a beautiful connection between nature and spirituality, Hawaiian Kahuna sprinkle Turmeric with water to purify the earth.   

I have saved the best for last, the health benefits of this ancient plant. Turmeric can be sprinkled, infused or mixed in a variety of foods and beverages. Many herbal experts consider this rhizome the most useful herb in the world.  Although it is most commonly used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, modern research has become interested in its healing properties.