This root is highly revered in Ayurvedic medicine, as well as general South Asian cuisine. Native to Southern Asia, the name curcuma comes from the Arabic word “kurkum”, or “saffron”, and is an indication of its relationship to the vibrant orange color of both herbs. Since Biblical times, turmeric has been used to spice foods, make perfume and color clothing.
Turmeric is likely best known as a pungent and bright yellow spice in Indian cuisine. It’s a tropical plant, and can only be grown outdoors if you live in zones 9 or warmer. Your plants won’t be able to tolerate any climate colder than 65F. Turmeric is different from most herbs in that you are not going to be harvesting the leaves, but the roots instead. The plant grows an underground tuber, or rhizome much like ginger does. It can take up to 10 months for a new crop of roots to develop, and it’s not a plant that you can harvest in small pieces through the season.
On the next page are instructions for growing turmeric roots and making powder.