Tumeric (Curcuma longa)
Now for the long awaited post about the third of my “Tom went to the Korean grocery, what did he find” posts! I bought some tumeric rhizomes. For those not in the know tumeric (Curcuma longa) is a relative of ginger (Zingiber officinalis), both being in the Zingiberaceae family. The only other horticulturally significant curcuma I can think of is Curcuma allismatifolia or Siamese Tulip, a really pretty ornamental occasionally scene in florist shops.
The tumeric is the first thing on the left, the little orange roots. They basically look like little tiny ginger roots. They’re about the size and width of my thumb (2-3 inches long and about an inch wide at most). I was really shocked by the orange color, when you buy powdered tumeric at the store it’s always yellow so I figured it was probably yellow inside, right?
Wrong! Turns out they’re orange like a carrot. I couldn’t resist trying it fresh so I cut off a tiny bit and chewed on it. It has a weird peppery taste with a floral overtone and only the slightest hint of ginger. So by now you’re probably wonder what on earth I was going to use this for since it’s not really something you eat plain. Well…
I decided to make refrigerator pickles! I usually use powdered tumeric to color them but I decided to use fresh (since I just happened to have some right there). I also hoped the fresh might add a little flavor to them. This oh-so-appetizing picture is the brine. It’s basically 1.5 cups vinegar, 1 cup white sugar, 1 shredded tumeric root and about a teaspoon of granulated garlic.
All I did was boil that mixture until the color leached out of the tumeric and the sugar dissolved into the vinegar. Pour that on 1 thin sliced cucumber and half a sliced onion, wait 4 days and you’ve got fantastically tangy pickled cucumbers and onions! They’re really good on hot dogs and ham and cream cheese sandwiches. They’re also good plain. The fresh tumeric did give them a little bit more of a pepper taste than normal so it was worth my $.67 to buy 5 roots.
Now on to some horticulturiness!
I planted the left over rhizomes into a 5″ pot of fast draining potting soil. It worked in the past for my galangal and cardamom plants so I figure it should work decently for these too. I can’t really give you much info on the care yet since they haven’t sprouted (I’m not sure if they ever actually will…) but once they’re up and growing I’ll post about how I’ve been caring for them in case you someday feel compelled to grow your own tumeric from the grocery. In the mean time if you try this make sure to let the pot dry slightly between waterings, pretty much all plants with thick rhizomes are prone to root rot and once it starts it’s almost always fatal. So no overwatering!