Used in cooking since 600 B.C, turmeric is the root of a tropical plant related to GINGER. Though native to the Orient, this spice is now also cultivated in India and the Caribbean. It has a bitter, pungent flavor and an intense yellow-orange color. In modern cuisine, it is used mainly to add both flavor and color to food.
Popular in East Indian cooking and almost always used in CURRY preparations. It is the primary ingredient in MUSTARD and is what gives American-style prepared mustard its bright yellow color. Powdered versions are widely available in supermarkets. As with all spices, it should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.
Turmeric in Indian Culture
According to some sources, up to 80 percent of people in India use some form of traditional medicine, a category which includes Ayurveda. Ayurveda is a combination of religion and medicine. Today, Ayurvedic medicine is considered pseudo-scientific on account of its confusion between reality and metaphysical concepts. Modernized practices derived from Ayurveda traditions are a type of alternative medicine. In the Western world, some Ayurveda ideas have been integrated in general wellness applications and some medical use.
In Ayurvedic medicne, turmeric is used as a blood-purifier, an anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic remedy. Recent scientific research has confirmed its beneficial effects on the intestines, suggesting turmeric, supplemented to a diet may account for the low incidence of bowel cancer in India. It is also used in Ayurvedic practice to treat digestive and skin problems, as well as wounds and damage to the skin.
It has also been used as a tonic for anemia because it is rich in iron.
Plant cultivation of turmeric
A close relative of ginger, turmeric is a perennial that can grow to over 4 feet tall. It has shiny, pointed pairs of lance-shaped leaves and yellow flowers. It has a yellow-colored, fleshy tuberous root, which can be boiled, dried and powdered before being used as a spice.
Plants require well-drained, moist and well-nourished soil. A humid climate with a minimum temperature of 45ºF is necessary; therefore, in colder climates a greenhouse maybe necessary.
Curcumin is the bright yellow chemical compound found in turmeric. Curcumin is believed to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and perhaps even anti-cancer properties, but more research is needed, outside of a laboratory.
Other medical uses of turmeric
An infusion of 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric power in a generous 3/4 cup of milk helps rid the body of intestinal parasites, diarrhea and sluggish digestion, as well as coughs, colds or sore throats.
Turmeric power mixed into a paste with a little chickpea flour and water can be applied externally to cuts and wounds to speed up healing, as well as a skin-smoothing paste to improve or brighten the complexion.
Incorporating 1 teaspoon of turmeric to your dinner regularly, will calm you and help in sleeping.
Dr. Oz says this “golden spice of life,” has the potential for lowering cholesterol, reducing blood sugar in diabetics, relieving arthritis, supporting liver function, improving digestion, reducing menstrual cramps, reducing inflammation in the colon, wound healing and fighting cancer.
7 Culinary ways to get turmeric into your diet
- Infuse a half cup of olive oil with a teaspoon of turmeric and brush it onto your corn on the cob in lieu of butter.
- When sautéing onions, sprinkle some turmeric for added flavor.
- Add turmeric to your next rice dish for a tasty new take on rice.
- Make a turmeric infused tea, adding honey, cinnamon and milk
- Toss 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric with any roasted vegetables
- Blend a pinch of turmeric in your smoothie. The pungent flavor should be masked in a smoothie.
- Add turmeric to any bland food to spice it up a bit.