Hartley Magazine

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Harvesting Turmeric

TurmericLast winter was my most successful for getting slightly tender plants through the winter, and Im hoping to repeat my success. I laid a very low wattage propagation mat onto one of the shelves of the mini greenhouse and then snuggled all of the aeoniums, geraniums and succulents onto it. It seemed more efficient to heat this tiny space. Everything came through bar the lemon verbena, upon which I seem to have some sort of death curse, having never yet kept one alive beyond December. Lemon verbena aside, my successes last year have led to a bit of a problem this year. Geranium buying stands still for no man, and the fact that I didn’t kill all of last year’s batch does not seem to have had any bearing whatsoever on the number I bought this summer. I mean that I still bought loads of geraniums, as I do every year, and that now I have to find some way to keep them alive too. My mini greenhouse is packed to the gunnels.

Having dispensed with the shelving last year I have now been forced to reinstate it, and to chop back the geraniums fiercely so they would all fit on the lower shelf with the heating mat. Tall things go up above on the top bunk, and I am hoping that the heat from the mat will seep through sufficiently to keep the frosts off. But even with the extra space my second shelf afforded I was till one plant over. I just couldn’t cram them all in. I decided it was time to harvest the turmeric.

Turmeric 2I have been growing turmeric for a couple of years now, but not for the roots. I had a suspicion that the roots wouldn’t bulk out much in our climate but I love the leaves. You can wrap them around a sweet batter and steam the whole caboodle to make a deliciously fragrant dumpling, or use them in tea. It’s a really beautiful, delicate, floral-citrus flavour, quite unusual. But with two huge pots on the go and space for only one, it was time to harvest one and see how those roots had been getting on. They were as disappointing as I had imagined they would be! But it is interesting to see that the yellow roots (perhaps warmer weather makes them deeper orange) grow downwards into the soil, rather than across the surface as I had imagined they would. Anyway, they have all been snapped off of the plant and will be finely chopped up and put into a dhal tonight. Very nice, but one dhal is not a great result for a summer’s worth of growth. I have read in a recently published book that we can grow them for the roots here but alas it does appear not to be the case. Even after this long and hot summer they have come to very little. Do grow them for the leaves, kids, but not for the roots.

The chopping of the geraniums led to a further burst of activity once all of the plants were chucked away. I really can’t resist a geranium, and to throw away such promising looking stems was too tough. It is not the time of year for this at all, but I have taken my chopped bits and turned them into pots full of cuttings to bring indoors onto the kitchen windowsill. Maybe the warmth indoors will provide a tiny incentive to them to root rather than rot, and I can pot them up into their own individual pots in spring, and have even more geraniums to worry about next winter.