How to Process Turmeric

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Processing of Turmeric - Technical Brief

Turmeric (Curaima Domestua)
Main countries of production: India, Bangladesh, Taiwan and China
Optimal climate: Wide range of conditions
Rainfall: 1000-2000mm
Elevation: up to 1220m above sea level

Agricultural and botanical aspects

Turmeric is an erect perennial plant grown as an annual. It requires a loamy soil and is propagated vegetatively.


The whole plant is removed from the ground. Care needs to be taken to prevent the rhizomes being cut or bruised.


The leaves are cut off and the roots washed carefully in water. The lateral branches of the rhizomes ("fingers") are cut off from the central "bulb" ("mother"). The "fingers and "mothers" are heaped separately, covered in leaves to sweat for a day.


The rhizomes need to be boiled or steamed to remove the raw odour, reduce the drying time, gelatinise the starch and produce a more uniformly coloured product.

Traditionally in India the rhizomes were placed in pans or earthenware pots filled with water and covered with leaves with cow dung over the top. The ammonia in the cow dung reacted with the turmeric to produce the final product. For hygienic reasons this method is being discouraged.

The present practices recommended are:

  • The rhizomes are placed in shallow pans in large iron vats.
  • Water is added to a level at 5-7cm above the rhizomes.
  • Add 0.05 - 0.1% alkali (eg sodium bicarbonate).
  • The rhizomes should be boiled for between forty to forty-five minutes (as is done in India) and six hours (as is done in Hazare in Pakistan) depending on the variety.


The rhizomes are removed and dried in the sun immediately to prevent over cooking. The final moisture content should be between 8 and 10% (wet basis). When a finger will snap cleanly with a metallic sound it is sufficiently dry.


The dried rhizomes are polished to remove the rough surface. This can be done by hand or by shaking the rhizomes in a gunny bag filled with stones. Polishing drums are in use in many places. These are very simple power driven drums.


Lead chromate is sometimes used to produce a better finish. This should be actively discouraged.

Varieties of turmeric


This is from Kerela and is a deep yellow colour with a high pigment content (6.5% curcumin level). This is popular in the USA.


This is from Tamil Nadu and is a mustard colour with a lower pigment content (3.5% curcumin level). This is popular in the UK.

West Indian

This is from the Caribbean and is a dull yellowish brown.


US Government Standards and the American Spice Trade Association Standards

Moisture content %


Curcumin %


Extraneous matter % (by weight)


Mould %


Volatile oil ml/100g


Reference and further reading

Drying Technology, Practical Action Technical Brief
Spice, Practical Action Technical Brief
Cardamom, Practical Action Technical Brief
Cinnamon, Practical Action Technical Brief
Cumin, Practical Action Technical Brief
Nutmeg and Mace, Practical Action Technical Brief

This Howtopedia entry was derived from the Practical Action Technical Brief Energy from the Wind.
To look at the original document follow this link:

Useful addresses

Practical Action The Schumacher Centre for Technology & Development, Bourton on Dunsmore, RUGBY, CV23 9QZ, United Kingdom.
Tel.: +44 (0) 1926 634400, Fax: +44 (0) 1926 634401


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