What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is an ancient spice, a native of South East Asia, used from antiquity as dye and a condiment. It is cultivated primarily in Bengal, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Java. Peru. Australia and the West Indies. It is still used in rituals of the Hindu religion, and as a dye for holy robes, being natural, unsynthesized and cheap. Turmeric is in fact one of the cheapest spices. Although as a dye it is used similarly to saffron, the culinary uses of the two spices should not be confused and should never replace saffron in food dishes. Its use dates back nearly 4000 years, to the Vedic culture in India where it was used as a culinary spice and had some religious significance. The name derives from the Latin terra merita “meritorious earth” referring to the colour of ground turmeric which resembles a mineral pigment. In many languages turmeric is simply named as “yellow root”.
Turmeric is the rhizome or underground stem of a ginger-like plant. It is usually available ground, as a bright yellow, fine powder. The whole turmeric is a tuberous rhizome, with a rough, segmented skin. The rhizome is yellowish-brown with a dull orange interior that looks bright yellow when powdered. The main rhizome measures 2.5 – 7 cm (1” – 3 “) in length with a diameter of 2.5 cm (1”), with smaller tubers branching off.
Bouquet: Earthy and slightly acrid.
Flavour: Warm and aromatic with a bitter undertone.
Hotness Scale: 3
Preparation and Storage
Turmeric is always used in ground form. The powder will maintain its colouring properties indefinitely though the flavour will diminish over time so buy in moderation. Store in airtight containers, out of sunlight.
Cooking with Turmeric
Turmeric is used extensively in the East and the Middle East as a condiment and culinary dye. In India it is used to tint many sweet dishes. Apart from its wide use in Moroccan cuisine to spice meat, particularly lamb, and vegetables, its principal place is in curries and curry powders. It is used in many fish curries, possibly because it successfully masks fishy odours. When used in curry powders, it is usually one of the main ingredients, providing the associated yellow colour.
When looking for a substitute for turmeric, keep in mind that it has a mild flavor and thus you may leave it out of some recipes altogether without ruining the flavor of the dish. Saffron is a possible substitute for turmeric. It has an earthy aroma and a much stronger taste than turmeric, so use only a small amount as a substitute. You can also use mustard powder with pinch of saffron.
Where to Buy Turmeric
You can purchase good-quality organic turmeric here.
Health Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric is rich in healthy nutrients such as protein, fibre, vitamin C, E and K, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc. With all of these advantageous properties, turmeric is used to treat a wide variety of health problems.
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties that are effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Taking turmeric on a regular basis can bring much relief from joint pain as well as inflammation of the joints.
It is an anti-carcinogen. Several researchers have found that the active components in turmeric make it one of the best protectors against radiation-induced tumors. In addition, the antioxidant property of turmeric destroys free radicals in the body that damage the body’s cells. It has been found that those
Turmeric contains lipopolysaccharide, which stimulates the body’s immune system. Its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal agents also help strengthen the immune system. Curcumin has been shown to be active against Staphlococcus aureus (pus-producing infections)
Turmeric can be used in the treatment of diabetes by helping to moderate insulin levels. It also improves glucose control and increases the effect of medications used to treat diabetes.
Turmeric is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent and can be used as an effective disinfectant.
Research has shown that simply using turmeric as a food condiment can lower serum cholesterol levels.
Inflammation of the brain may be a major cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric supports the general health of the brain helping in eliminating plaque buildup in the brain and improving oxygen flow which can prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
production of enzymes and turmeric increases the production of these vital enzymes. These vital enzymes break down and reduce toxins in the body. Turmeric is also believed to invigorate and improve blood circulation. All of these factors support good liver health.
Turmeric stimulates the gallbladder to produce bile, which in turn improves digestion and reduces the symptoms of swelling and gas. This also helps in the breakdown of fat in the diet.
Turmeric is a mild digestive, being aromatic, a stimulant, and a carminative. An ointment base on the spice is used as an antiseptic in Malaysia.
Turmeric water is an Asian cosmetic applied to impart a golden glow to the complexion.
You can benefit from turmeric by having a teaspoon of turmeric powder diluted in water with each meal.
Plant Description and Cultivation
A tropical perennial related to ginger (of the Zingiberaceae family) It grows to 60 – 100 cm (2-3 1/2 feet). It has long-stemmed, bright green lily-like leaves which surround conical clusters of pale yellow flowers. Turmeric thrives in the tropics and sub-tropics where it requires a hot, moist climate and fairly light soil. It is propagated through division of the rhizome. The roots are boiled, dried for over a week and their rough skins are often polished before the sale.
Indian Saffron, Tumeric, Yellow Ginger French: curcuma, saffron des Indes German: Gelbwurz Italian; curcuma Spanish: curcuma Arabic: kharkoum Burmese: fa nwin Chinese: wong geung fun Indian: haldee, haldi, huldee, huldie Indonesian: kunjit, kunyit Malay: kunjit Sinhalese: kaha Tamil: munjal Thai: kamin
Curcuma domestica syn: Curcuma long Fam: Zingiberaceae
Photo Simon A. Eugster / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)