Tag Archives: Turmeric

My Tropical Asian Treasure Trove – Part 1

It looks like some overgrown wasteland, neglected, in disarray … well, Ma Nature never created forest growth in straight rows. If they can grow in harmony as companions, and they have for over 3 years, why should I try to ‘straighten things out’ and spoil their habitat?

My shade loving Asian bed

It’s summer. Both plants and human beings in this household can feel the heat, which results in the planting and monitoring frenzy of spices, herbs and rhizomes I use in the kitchen. I try to grow as much as I can, to harvest and preserve (dry or freeze) as I know when the weather gets cooler, they die off or hibernate. They make way for their cool weather comrades.

You may ask “why not just get Asian stuff from an Asian grocery store?” Well, it’s over 35 miles to the closest well-stocked Asian produce store so it would be crazy frequently heading there just to get herbs & spices I need. More important, many of the items that I use, are not sold there … oh yes, not all Asian culinary spices are created equal.
(Click on the sub-titled links for more info & photos.)

Turmeric ~ a much-needed spice in my kitchen. It has grown in my backyard for over 3 years so it simply feels at home and will start re-growing in Spring but will show its leaves in Summer. I use these leaves in tea, curries and as wraps when roasting; and the roots in curries, pickles, sambal, etc.

Fresh green Turmeric leaves.

Galangal (Alpinia officinarum) 南姜 ~ which I simply call Lengkuas is another crucial item needed when preparing S.E. Asian dishes like those Mum taught me.

Galangal – just “normal” looking rhizome growth.

Can you get these in Chinese, Vietnamese or Filipino owned stores? No, but you might find it in Thai & Indian stores … frozen ones, yes but fresh ones, maybe.

Sand Ginger (Kaempferia galanga) or Cekur/沙姜 ~ the mysterious ornamental ginger which I began growing when a ginger-growing enthusiast sent me a rhizome.

Cekur, it makes a beautiful groundcover

Leaves and rhizomes are edible. Lovely as ground cover, even lovelier as an organic backyard grown food aroma enhancer. Can one find this in Asian stores in Florida? Unfortunately I have to say 99.9% it’s “No”. So I simply grow it!

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2nd Turmeric Harvest

Today I harvested my 2nd batch of Turmeric (Kunyit), enough to use for the next 6 months, if used frugally 😀

Its flowers are beautiful & I will add an update pic when its blooms appear.

Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) is a perennial rhizomatous plant of the Ginger family. In the Malay language, it is called Kunyit.

Commonly used in South and South East Asia when cooking curries, making pickles, coloring spicy rice, etc. It is rarely sold in its root form unless one goes to an Indian/Thai/Vietnamese sundry store (and the closest one to me is 35 miles away!)  It is mainly sold in supermarkets in powder form but I think when one has used it in its “fresh” root form, pounded/mashed in a mortar, other forms just lack that aromatic ‘punch’.  So, I choose to grow it …

ImageIt needs temperatures between 70°F – 80°F , plus steady rainfall, to actually produce green leaves and spread its rhizomes. In the tropics, those are common conditions but in US Zone 9 Florida, where I am, that is between Spring & Fall. In winter, its growth simply stagnates.

kunyetoct2Rinsed and will be only partially harvested. I usually leave 30% intact and re-bury it for it to continue growing till the next harvest.

kunyetoct3… and with this handful, I can now prepare my curry paste, rice ‘pesto’ , etc.