It’s the first week of June–the perfect time to plant your own ginger and turmeric! These two are some of the hardest to get truly fresh anywhere other than your own garden and are also expensive. I have a bad habit of wanting to grow everything, even if it’s far flung, but this was one of those that turned out lovely. I’ve been growing my own ginger and turmeric for three years and it’s easy and satisfying. They are pest and disease free plants that don’t even need full sun.
As long as you have a decent summer (probably Zone 7 and up), you can get a good crop in one season outside. The pros overwinter it in a greenhouse (by nature this is a tropical plant so letting it get cold is a no-no), but it works fine to plant around the time you’d put sweet potatoes in and then harvest before the first frost.
Ginger and turmeric like humidity, moisture, good drainage, and filtered sun. If you have spots in the garden too shady for full sun crops, these will be happy there.
Conventional turmeric and ginger rhizomes may be irradiated, which makes them hard to propagate, so buy organic or from a farmer. Our local natural grocers carry both, as does a vendor at our local farmer’s market.
What you need
- healthy (not shriveled or moldy) organic ginger and turmeric rhizomes with lots of happy “eyes”
- a sharp knife
- large pots or garden bed with rich, well drained soil (3:1 organic potting mix and compost works well for pots)
What you do
- Cut the roots into pieces at least one inch long with at least one eye, ideally two. It’s tempting to cut them too small because they are so expensive, but if none of them sprout you lose the investment anyway. Eight ounces of turmeric provides 20-30 eyes, ginger a little less because usually the roots are fatter.
- Plant them 3x their length deep. They are slow starters so give them a month to show above ground. I often add hardwood mulch to keep down the weeds while you wait.
- Keep them well mulched, weeded, and watered.
- To harvest, gently loosen the soil with a digging fork as late in the fall as possible before first frost.
- Separate big rhizomes from those too small to be useful. Repot the small ones in a large pot and put it somewhere out of the way. Water about once a month and next spring you can jump start planting with these little buggers.
Wash harvested rhizomes and eat fresh, without peeling. They’ll last a few weeks in the fridge wrapped in paper towels. To preserve longer, cure by leaving out for a day or two inside, then store in brandy. This also gives you turmeric/gingered brandy to flavor soups and sauces or take as a tonic for colds.
But wait! Don’t compost those green stems. They are lovely dried or fresh in teas or soups, or sautéed fresh with veggies.