Like ginger, turmeric isn’t really that well suited to my climate. I live in a temperate climate but really it is a tropical plant. So was it worth growing turmeric in Melbourne? Well I think the answer is yes, particularly if you enjoy cooking with it but have trouble finding it fresh.
I bought turmeric rhizomes from Green Harvest last Spring and planted them in September. I did the same last year with less success but this year my crop has been a lot more substantial. The rhizomes cost me $6.95 and based on the price of fresh turmeric at Preston Market my crop was worth about $8.00. Whilst this doesn’t seem to be a great return I should mention that I only planted out half of the rhizomes in pots the rest went in the ground, and pretty much all of that return is from the pot grown plants. I also have plenty of growing material for next year so the $6.95 is just a start up expense.
Even if you don’t get a crop you may find the plants attractive enough to grow for their foliage. The larger leaved plants in the picture below are the turmeric. They certainly gave my garden a lush tropical feel which I really enjoyed.
I planted out my rhizomes in September, I also had some that I’d left in the ground from last year. Those planted direct in the ground had stunted growth and didn’t form many rhizomes at all. The pot grown ones were far more successful. I think that this is because they had no competition and as a result got much larger quantities of food and water than those grown in the ground. They also had a bit more sun.
I harvested once the foliage began to die away in winter:
This is some of what I found beneath the soil:
Altogether I harvested about 500g from 3 rhizomes planted into a 40cm pot. Whilst I’m sure that I would have got a lot more if I was gardening in the tropics it was still a fairly satisfying amount. The other thing I should admit is that whilst I’m pretty sure that this harvest was from rhizomes planted this season it may be that some of it is from rhizomes that had been in the soil for 2 years. I did leave some in a pot over winter and I’m not sure if it was part of this harvest or if it was one I pulled much earlier in the year. Most of this harvest looks like new growth so regardless I’m confident that most of the growth occured this year.
You can see some of what I presume is older growth in the front of the above picture. Its skin is much darker and internally it is a stronger colour.
I use fresh turmeric in both curry pastes and stir fries, the taste is fresher and lighter than the powder. If I had more I would consider trying to dry some to grind as I do enjoy using it in powder form too.
I have set aside some rhizomes for replanting in Spring, and have put a couple of pieces into little pots inside to see if I can get them going a bit earlier by keeping them inside. All in all a fun experiment. Now I want to try galangal – I’ve planted some the last two years but it hasn’t shooted. I plan to try again this year with material bought at the market and see if I’m more successful with that. Anyone done this successfully?