Turmeric Harvesting

I have a jungle of turmeric growing in my hatake garden plot. It’s all volunteers from the Kawasakis old garden. I didn’t do anything to call it forth, it just arrived in its own time. Turmeric is a beautiful broad leaf plant with exotic white flowers. Over the summer it was lush and green. When the leaves start to yellow and die back, it is time to harvest.

Harvesting is simple. I break the leaves and stems off at ground level, then shovel up the main root, and dig around for fingers of turmeric that broke off into the soil. Simple, but it’s not easy – avoiding the root with the shovel is a skill I hope to master someday. I sliced quite a lot of the pieces.

It doesn’t matter, though. It’s usable even when it’s been hacked through. And there is more, much more than I can use and lots to practice on. All the small pieces that I miss getting out of the ground will grow back as new plants next year.

After harvesting about a third of what’s in the plot, along with a few Jerusalem artichokes and a surprise red potato, my big bucket was as heavy as I wanted to carry. I hauled it down to the sink at the barn for the next phase: washing.

First, I filled the bucket with water and rinsed off the loose dirt. Then I spread the pieces out and hosed them off. It was a very muddy process. Lots of fun!

There was one massive lump of turmeric I managed to pull out of the ground whole. It was from several plants that had clustered together. I gave it extra attention with the hose and pried it all apart into half a dozen hand-sized pieces.

What will I do with all this turmeric? Spice a lot of curry! Candy it. Use it for tea. Make golden milk. Develop new recipes. Dry it and powder it. Turn it into natural dye or ink. Give it away to friends. Sell it to strangers. Or leave it in the ground and see what happens next year.

I think turmeric will be my main crop for a while. It’s easy, beautiful and multipurpose. Maybe I can trade for real food. 🙂

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.