The Spice Series: Turmeric
This is continuation of my Spice Series. Welcome to my information about Turmeric!
**Turmeric was once called a “poor man’s saffron” due to being cheaper than saffron and similar-ish taste and coloring abilities. However, it is now considered “Indian gold” due to it’s rising super-stardom as a spice. Why is turmeric rising in reputation? Simple: scientists have recently discovered that this is one of nature’s most powerful healers.
**Scientists started researching turmeric when they noticed that chronic illnesses were significantly lower in India, a place where turmeric is a kitchen staple, than in most Western countries. Their research has discovered that turmeric is an amazingly powerful medicine.
**While turmeric has seen an increase in popularity, it still has a reasonable price. This is because the industrial uses for it as a food coloring and a textile dye has remained very strong and the plant is easy to grow.
**Did you know that American mustard (the stuff we put on hot dogs) relies heavily on turmeric for its coloring? So do our cheeses, butters, and even our textile dyes. We are getting turmeric in our diet (at least minimally) in these ways (not the textile dyes).
This article includes information on the medicinal benefits, culinary uses, and even how to grow your own turmeric. I hope you like this material, and, as always, if you have any questions/comments/additional sources for me, please post in the comment section below! Enjoy!
**Over the past few years, there has been an increasing interest in turmeric due to its medicinal properties. There has been a large amount of scientific research done on this topic and the research has delivered wonderful news about the amazing medicinal benefits of turmeric.
**The list of medicinal benefits is long and includes: a carminative, choleric, digestive, stomachic, aid for liver problems, good for ulcers, externally beneficial for skin sores, a cold remedy, antiparasitic, antiperiodic, antibiotic, antiseptic, and the list goes on.
**Turmeric owes its preventive and curative skills to its active ingredient: curcumin, a compound so diverse and powerfully rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that it has been shown to protect and improve the health of virtually every organ in the body. In fact, research shows that turmeric, taken as supplemental curcumin, is as effective and, in some cases, even more effective than pharmaceutical drugs—without their side effects.
**Turmeric’s strength as an antioxidant has gotten the attention of mainstream medicine in the United States and around the world mostly because of its scientifically shown ability to fight cancer.
**There have been more than 1,000 research studies with the same result: curcumin is anti-cancer. Research demonstrates that the curcumin found in turmeric can fight cancer on many levels. It can: inhibit the activation of genes that trigger cancer, inhibit the spread of tumor cells, inhibit the transformation of a normal cell into a cancer cell, kill cells that mutate into cancer, shrink tumor cells, prevent tumors from spreading to other organs, prevent the development of the blood supply necessary for cancer cells to form and spread, and enhance the cancer-destroying effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
**If you want to make turmeric even more potent against cancer-causing environmental hazards, sprinkle turmeric and black pepper together in your food. Studies show that both curcumin in turmeric and pepperine in black pepper fight cancer. Plus, pepperine enhances the absorption of curcumin.
**Turmeric is clearly an important medicinal spice and I hope you have a great desire to add more to your diet after reading about all of these medicinal benefits. There are many more benefits that are being researched still today, so I hope to add on to this list in the future!
**Turmeric is often used to color food yellow, but it is also known as one of the key ingredients of curry powder.
**It is not only cheaper than saffron, but also stronger tasting and healthier. In fact, it is often called Indian Saffron due to it being used instead of saffron in many recipes.
**For hundreds of years, people have been substituting turmeric for saffron in recipes, due to turmeric being cheaper. However, these two spices share nothing in common but their color. Their flavors and aromas and even the parts of the plants used are completely different.
**If you buy turmeric in their root form, make sure you wear gloves when you handle them! They will stain your hands bright yellow-orange (and your clothes, and your counters….)
**Just like ginger, you use turmeric roots by peeling off the outer skin and shredding or grating it with a good-quality grater.
**Turmeric pairs well with these spices/herbs: Allspice, Black pepper, Caraway, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Coconut, Coriander, Cumin, Fennel seed, Garlic, Ginger, and Mustard seed
**Turmeric compliments recipes that include: Curries, Lentils, Rice, Soups, Tomato sauces, and Vegetables
**When it comes to cuisine, turmeric is best known as a key ingredient in curry, the variety of spicy dishes that accompany every meal in India. In fact, turmeric is so well-loved in India, it is used in just about everything. And it is a common ingredient in many spice blends, known as masalas.
**Turmeric is not recommended for dishes calling for dairy, because it masks the spice’s delicate flavor.
How to Grow:
**This is a rhizome from the ginger family. It is not often grown at home, due to its’ exotic origins and also due to the belief that when turmeric is dried, it becomes as hard as concrete and can only be grinded in an industrial grinding process and not from home-based food processors. However, I have been finding multiple blogs and websites about growing it at home, and I think this “tough as concrete” idea is more myth than reality. I will grow this someday and edit this post if I find out it is not worth growing, but for now, I encourage people to try it out!
**Turmeric has large leaves that give a tropical look to any garden. It can be dug up and overwintered indoors in northern climates, it is easy to grow, and one rhizome can increase to hundreds more over the course of a few years with little to no effort.
**Supposedly, the leaves, stems, and flowers are edible as well. I would love to find a recipe that uses turmeric flowers. This intrigues me, but I have found limited information on it. If anyone finds out more about eating turmeric flowers, please let me know!
**It prefers well drained soil and part sun, but it has been noted to grow quite well in shade, clay, soggy muck, and even survive long droughts. It can also grow in full sun as long as you keep the soil wet. Otherwise, try to give it mid-day shade.
**It will grow well in zones 7-11 in the ground over winter. Other zones can grow it too, but you will have to dig up the rhizomes in the fall and store them in a cool place over winter (or grow it in a pot and bring in the pot for the winter). Basically, you need to prevent the roots from freezing.
**Plant turmeric in spring once all danger of frost has passed, or in northern climates, start it in a container. The leaves will eventually become plumes four feet tall in ideal conditions, and green and white cones of yellow flowers will emerge between the leaves in summer. After a stem has finished flowering, cut it to the ground to encourage new growth. By late fall the leaves will begin to decline and turn yellow. Cut them back if desired or let them die back naturally.
**Even when growing turmeric outdoors, you may want to consider growing it in a container that can be moved indoors once temperatures drop. Containers will also help to keep the soil warm and moist, which helps the plant stay very healthy. Choose a container that is at least 12 inches deep and equally as wide.
**Turmeric is grown from rhizomes (root cuttings) much like ginger, and not from seed. In fact, turmeric does not propagate seeds. You can find turmeric root at Indian stores, specialty nurseries or online. Only plant healthy, firm rhizomes and avoid any that appear to be rotting or diseased.
**Plant small rhizomes or pieces with at least 1 or 2 buds (facing up) about 2 inches deep. Water and keep the soil moist but not soaking wet until they sprout. Transplant if necessary once the plants are at least 2 inches tall. Keep them spaced about 16 inches apart. Thin if necessary to give them plenty of room to breath and flourish.
**It takes up to 6-8 weeks to sprout, so patience is needed with this plant. Until it sprouts, keep the plant in a dark area where moisture can be carefully maintained. Then, when sprouts start to show up, move to a warm, partly sunny location until the soil is warm enough to plant it outside (or keep in a pot, depending on your zone)
**Turmeric needs to be watered frequently (remember it is a tropical plant). Frequent misting with a spray bottle will help, particularly when growing indoors. Keep the soil moist, particularly in hot, dry climates. Water less frequently in cooler climates and try to keep the soil from ever getting soggy.
**Turmeric will benefit from bi-monthly feedings of a good organic fertilizer or compost tea.
**This plant is dormant over winter. In warmer climates, the roots can be left in the ground and will survive and sprout new flowers in the spring. In colder climates, you need to transplant to containers and/or move your turmeric indoors. If you live in an area with mild winters where freezing ground is only of small concern, you may be able to mulch over your turmeric for the winter to protect them until the spring.
**Aphids and mites might by be attracted to turmeric, but most insects in the U.S. are not interested in the plant.
**The rhizomes are usually harvested eight to ten months after planting when the leaves and stems of the plant become dry. Remove the leaves and then carefully dig up the plants. Lift out the turmeric clumps and manually remove the dirt. They can then be soaked in water to remove any additional soiling and dried naturally. The clumps should be stored in a cool place without excess moisture. Stored clumps can be replanted in the spring.
**Harvest turmeric root 8-10 months after planting. Dig up the rhizomes and save a few pieces to plant for the following season.
**You can clean, dry and store the roots in your refrigerator. Wrap the rhizomes in aluminum foil and they should help them stay fresh for up to six months. You can also store them in any cool, dark place (like a root cellar) until you want to use them.
**In order to dry turmeric roots for future use and for grinding, you need to use the following guidelines:
(1): Put on gloves, cover counter, etc. Otherwise expect a fancy new look of orange skin and counters.
(2): Clean the rhizomes thoroughly.
(3): Boil rhizomes in a pot of water for 45 minutes. This is called Curing, and it helps enhance the flavors.
(4): Peel off the skins (a potato peeler works nicely).
(5): Dry them. You can do this by drying them in the shade outdoors for at least a week (direct sunlight will fade the color). You can also do this by cutting the roots into 2 inch pieces and drying them in a dehydrator.
(6): Break up the dried rhizomes with a hammer into small pieces. This is optional, but it will help quicken the process of making it into powder.
(7) Grind the smaller dried rhizome pieces. You can go the traditional way and use a mortar and pestle (this will take you a while). You can use a food processor. If you own one, you can supposedly use a nut grinder (I have little knowledge on this one). Strain the powder in a fine sieve, and any chunks left behind, put through your grinder again.
**Making your own turmeric powder is a bit time-consuming, but it will be fresher than what you would buy at the store, the taste is superior to that bought at the store, the plant is beautiful, and I think it sounds like fun! You can also make enough powder to last you two years, so that you could technically get away with doing this one once every two years.
**You can also use small pieces (not powder) in slow cooking dishes, which will save you time.
**You can store your freshly ground turmeric powder in a glass jar, out of direct sunlight and if properly stored, it will keep for two years.
There you go! This is all of the information that I could find about Turmeric. Please click here for my introduction to my Spice Series. Again, if you have any comments, questions, or extra information for me, please feel free to post in the comment section below!
**Try this Cherry Turmeric Smoothie recipe from A Harmony Healing. It’s both tasty AND good for pain relief!