For such an important thing, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting your supply from a good place. So, where is it grown across the world? Could you grow it yourself? In the course of this article, we’re going to find out together.
Where is it traditionally grown?
The turmeric plant is a subset of a larger group of plants known as the curcumas. They are perennial plants, and they’re native to southern Asia. They grow in warm, humid climates, and they typically only thrive at temperatures over 30°C.
Some examples of countries that are ideal for growing the turmeric plant are India, Sri Lanka, the East Indies, Fiji, and Queensland (Australia). Traditionally, that’s where the plant has been found to grow wild, and in many cases, it still does today!
Turmeric has a rich history and a huge number of names which can tell us many things about its traditional growing regions. Many languages simply refer to turmeric as ‘yellow root’, including English. The word ‘turmeric’ comes from the Latin word ‘terra merita’, meaning meritorious earth, in reference to turmeric’s golden color.
Turmeric spread around the world most notably between 700 and 1200 AD. It probably reached China in 700AD, followed by East Africa in 800AD and West Africa by 1200AD. One of the earliest notable references to it was in Susrata’s Ayurvedic Compendium - which dates back to 250 BC. The book makes reference to an ointment containing turmeric to relieve the effects of poisoned food. This particular book is an example of a very old reference to turmeric growing in India.
Where is it commercially grown now?
India produces nearly all of the world’s turmeric crop, and actually consumes roughly 80% of it! The soil in India is ideal for growing high-grade turmeric, with its inherent qualities and a high content of curcumin, an important bioactive compound. Because of those factors, Indian turmeric is considered to be the best in the world.
The world’s largest producer of turmeric is Erode, a city in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Because of its relevance on the global scale, it is often referred to as ‘Yellow City’, ‘Turmeric City’, or ‘Textile City’. The second-largest producer and exporter of Tumeric is also in India: a city called Sangli, in Maharashtra.
We’re proud to say that all of the turmeric we sell is authentic, high-quality Indian turmeric. We care a lot about bringing you the best quality product that we can, so we’ve made sure to provide authentic Indian turmeric.
There is also a very specific set of steps needed to go through in order to extract the pure turmeric powder from the plant’s root. The Indian method is slightly different to that in other countries, namely in that it is processed in a shorter amount of time.
Firstly, the roots of the plant are boiled or steamed to remove impurities and produce a uniform colour. Traditionally, the roots would be covered with leaves and then a layer of cow dung - the ammonia in the cow dung would react with the roots and help to produce the turmeric. Of course, this method is now heavily discouraged, and the roots are instead placed in solutions with a slightly heightened alkalinity. For example, a solution of sodium bicarbonate is often used. In the Indian method, the roots are boiled for forty to forty-five minutes, while in Pakistan, they’re boiled for six hours. After the boiling process is complete, the roots are removed from the solution and dried in the sun immediately to avoid overcooking. When the moisture content is between eight and ten percent, the roots are ready. They are then powdered, packaged, and sold.
Can you grow turmeric at home? Should you?
In short, yes, you can grow turmeric at home! It can be a complicated and labour-intensive process, but it is entirely possible to grow your own supply of fresh turmeric.
The actual process of growing them is much the same as growing other root vegetables, such as potatoes. Essentially, you have to bury some roots as they’re beginning to sprout, and then keep them light and warm while they flower and bear fresh roots!
As I mentioned above in the article, turmeric grows best in climates of over thirty degrees celsius. Unless your house or your garden is naturally that warm, your best bet is to rest your pots indoors on a heat mat which is hovering in the high twenties (Celcius). You can cover the pots with plastic covers in order to maintain the heat and ecosystem within the pots, but as they outgrow those covers, you can remove them.
Depending on the size of your original pots, you’ll need to water your plants on a regular basis, as well as potentially upgrading them to larger pots!
When you’re ready to harvest, it’s a fairly simple affair. When the leaves and stem start to turn brown and dry (roughly seven to ten months after planting) tip out the plants and remove as much soil as possible. Then, cut the stems off an inch or so above the mass of roots, and wash them well.
The roots will keep in the fridge for roughly six months, but if you want to make powder, then you’ll need to boil them for forty-five minutes to an hour, before drying them until brittle and grinding them into a powder.
So, to cut a long story short, yes, you can grow your own turmeric! It just might be a bit of a big job.
Turmeric is a truly influential spice all over the world, and as such it’s grown everywhere. It’s been a pleasure learning about turmeric and using it in our cooking and our turmeric and black pepper capsules. We hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as us!