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How to Grow Pepper, Clove, Turmeric & 15 Types of Indian Spices At Home

Uttarakhand-based Dr Anshu Rathi stocks her kitchen cabinet with homegrown Indian spices, such as turmeric, black pepper, saffron, cloves, bay leaf, cardamom and more. Here’s how she grows them.

How to Grow Pepper, Clove, Turmeric & 15 Types of Indian Spices At Home

Located close to the foothills of the Himalayas, Roorkee-based Dr Anshu Rathi’s kitchen smells heavenly. From cumin’s earthy aroma to refreshing fennel and pungent fenugreek seeds – her kitchen evokes the rustic charm of Indian spices.

“When I crush kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) on my palms, it leaves a very strong and tantalising smell. My husband is in awe of the fennel tea that I make. It feels so refreshing and tasty as it does not have any preservatives and colours,” Dr Anshu (36) tells The Better India.

A doctor by profession, she has established a lavish garden of up to 400 plants of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices on her 1,500-square-foot terrace.

Along with medicinal herbs like ashwagandha, basil, and oregano, she grows 15 kinds of spices — including turmeric, black pepper, saffron, cloves, nutmeg, fennel, fenugreek, bay leaf, cinnamon, asafoetida, allspice plant (kabab chini), chilli, coriander, nigella sativa plant (kalonji), and cardamom.

She shares how to easily grow these Indian spices at home, some of which can be grown using ingredients available in the kitchen.

Dr Anshu grows 15 kinds of spices — including turmeric, fennel, and fenugreek.
Dr Anshu grows 15 kinds of spices — including turmeric, fennel, and fenugreek.

Check the season and climatic conditions

Dr Anshu says she can grow all the listed spices owing to the favourable tropical climatic conditions of Uttarakhand. “India has a diverse climate, so before growing any spice, you must check the temperature conditions of your region,” she says.

“For example, you should sow spices like coriander, black pepper, and cumin in winter between October and November while you can sow turmeric in May and June,” she adds.

Know the germination period

Dr Anshu advises beginners to invest in purchasing saplings from nurseries. “But if you want to grow spices from seeds, soak them for germination. But this process is required only in big seeds like cardamom and coriander. You can soak them overnight before sowing. This process is not required in small seeds like cumin, fennel, and mustard,” she adds.

Explaining further, Dr Anshu says the germination period varies as per spices. “For instance, fennel takes 7 to 15 days, cumin takes 45 days, coriander seeds require 15 days, and fenugreek can germinate in just three days,” she says.

“These seeds must be sown in small cups. After germination, transfer the plant into big pots of say 12 inches. Keep it in a semi-shade for about a week and then place them under direct sunlight,” she adds.

Test the soil using this DIY hack

Dr Anshu suggests a sandy soil to cultivate spices. Because of the geography of her city, which is located between the rivers Ganges and Yamuna, she is blessed with a sandy porous soil. “So, I do not require to bother about the soil composition. However, for gardeners in other regions you need to test your soil,” she advises.

For this, she recommends a DIY trick to test the soil consistency.

“Take a handful of soil, dampen it, and try to shape it into a laddu. If you can easily make laddu from the soil, it has a high clay content. Mix 20 to 30 percent of sand into the soil till it crumbles and falls apart. Additionally, also mix 20 to 30 percent of cow dung compost and a handful of neem khali (cake) powder,” she explains.

Dr Anshu suggests a sandy soil to cultivate spices like bay leaf and saffron.
Dr Anshu suggests a sandy soil to cultivate spices like bay leaf and saffron.

Know when to fertilise the plant

“As we have already added cow dung compost and neem khali into the soil, there’s no need to fertilise the soil frequently. Right before 15 days of flowering season, add a handful of vermicompost in the pot,” she says.

Harvest spices at the right time

Dr Anshu says different spices have varied stages of flowering and production. “For instance, spices like cumin and coriander are ready for harvest within five months whereas black pepper takes two to three years and cardamom takes five years,” she adds.

These days, she is stocking her kitchen cabinets with cumin, kalonji seeds, fenugreek, and fennel. Dr Anshu says these spices have a distinct aroma compared to those available in the market.

“The use of chemicals, harmful fertilisers, colours, and additives is a huge concern in commercially packaged spices. With these tips, you can grow your own spices at home and save your family from the perils of toxic spices,” she shares.

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Edited by Pranita Bhat. All photos: Dr Anshu Rathi.

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