Growing Black Turmeric. Sometimes called blue turmeric

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Red stripes on the leaves of the black turmeric plant

If you have grown the common turmeric variety (Curcuma longa) successfully, then this variety (Curcuma caesia) is sure to be just as easy. The soil requirements are similar, as is the climate and sunlight. We have just planted our rhizomes back into soil and have covered them with wood shavings just as we did in this article about ginger. This short article is to show the process we use to get a solid return from a plant like black turmeric.

Is Black Turmeric better than normal turmeric?

We thought we would address this question quickly to explain why we grow the black or blue turmeric variety.

different colors of turmeric varieties. Black turmeric alongside yellow turmeric
Two varieties of turmeric. Black is often called blue for obvious reasons.

The primary reason we grow it is for the medicinal uses that far exceed the already very good medicinal benefits of your yellow turmeric. If you want turmeric for cooking or culinary reasons, we recommend the common yellow turmeric as the flavor is less “in your face” so to speak. There are several scientific studies that have explored the various qualities of the black turmeric, and most have agreed with the elevated medicinal benefits that this rhizome holds.

Soil preparation.

We did nothing special to the spot we have kept for this plant, other than pull out a few un-wanted weeds and volunteer coffee seedlings. For the most part, we took the easy path on this garden, and if you need info on our suggested method, this article will give you something to work with.

The soil was already littered with the yellow turmeric and some ginger rhizomes from the previous year, so we removed as many as possible as we could. It is impossible to get all of them, so we inevitably have gingers and turmeric almost everywhere.

garden where black turmeric will be planted
Only a small space for this crop. A little bit of black turmeric goes a long way.

The soil type in this garden is reasonably well structured, and has enough organic matter in it, and we didn’t apply any fertilizer or soil additive at all. As the images in this article will show, the only treatment was a good layer of wood shavings from a wood turning process. The shavings are from a rain tree, which is a legume, i.e… a nitrogen fixer.

As this mulch breaks down over the wet season, it will feed the black turmeric with enough nutrients to give us a healthy return.

First shoots on the black turmeric rhizomes.

We stored the rhizomes in a brown paper bag over the winter and kept an eye on them as the weather changed to a more humid climate. Our dry seasons have much lower humidity and this as well as the daylight hours hold many plants back from shooting. Once the change happens, away go the plants and the new wet season is upon us.

Using paper bags to keep black turmeric safe over the dry season

The rhizomes have small shoots that indicate it is time to get them in the ground, and if you time this well, it can coincide with the first wet season rains. This really gets the turmeric going.

Black turmeric rhizome with fresh shoots
We cut the ends to see what variety each rhizome was before planting.

We handled the rhizomes carefully as the small shoots can break off. This plant is a valuable addition to our yard, so gently does it.

What do black turmeric leaves look like?

Images will show the difference better than words, and because this garden already had residual yellow turmeric rhizomes in it already, we can get a great comparison as they all have shot above the mulch together.

fresh growth spikes of black turmeric showing red leaf color

You can see the red color showing through the fresh spikes as they punch through the layer of mulch. The spikes are strong, so don’t be concerned about the plant not being able to grow through mulch.

red tones of the black turmeric leaf starting to show soon after growing above the mulch layer
Black turmeric leaf spike with a yellow variety on the left.

As the leaves open, the difference is easily noticed. The red vein is quite distinctive.

Different leaves of black turmeric vs yellow turmeric
The red leaf is a black turmeric plant. The full green leaves are yellow turmeric.

Expected yield from growing black turmeric.

We have little knowledge of the typical crop that a black turmeric plant can give, and much of the information online is varied. We will continue to add to this post as the season progresses and we can then discover together what this plant offers in the way of a rhizome harvest.

Growing black turmeric as medicine.

The black turmeric is held in such high esteem in India where it originates from, it is now endangered in its native environment. Because the plant is so valuable it is now placed on a protected plant list and protected as such.

This pressure is because of the health benefits that the rhizome holds, and these have been well known for centuries within the Indian culture. If the local people find the plant to be of such high value, maybe we should look at this variety a bit closer in the future.

As we discover uses for this rhizome, we will share them as we find time to do so. Until then, enjoy the rest of the site.

Article by Tim Blanch for TheTropicalHomestead.com. He is a qualified Permaculture designer.