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The love for turmeric isn’t new to us, from generations it has been India’s most adored spice. Dig more into this golden ingredient right from some surprising facts and how it is farmed to trying out some delectable recipes we have got for you this season.
As an Indian kid born in a joint family, turmeric played an important role in my life. I remember my mother using the phrase as ‘one pinch of the golden spice’ always while cooking, my grandmother applying turmeric to my wounds and always insisting of drinking a whole glass of the golden milk before sleeping. This is absolutely relatable to every Indian kid, isn’t it?
Turmeric is the go-to ingredient in every Indian household from cooking to medicinal purposes. This super spice is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia while its use in India dates back nearly 4000 years to the Vedic culture wherein the spice was used mainly for culinary purpose as well as for some religious practices. In North India, turmeric is called as ‘haldi’, which is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘haridra’ while in the South it is commonly known as ‘manjal’. Also, the name turmeric is derived from the Latin word Terra Merita that means meritorious earth.
What is Turmeric?
This spice also known as the Indian Saffron because of the incredible coloring it imparts to food comes from Curcuma Longa, a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant belonging to the ginger family Zingiberaceae that is native to tropical Asia.
Before understanding the properties and the various benefits of this miracle ingredient, let’s dig a little deeper on how Turmeric is farmed.
- Turmeric is generally grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions where there is adequate rainfall and the temperature is humid.
- The plant can be grown in the shade but it produces larger and better rhizomes when planted in open ground exposed to the sun.
- Turmeric is rarely cultivated alone hence is usually rotated with crops such as sugarcane, chilli, onion, garlic, wheat, ragi and maize etc.
- The plant grows in different types of soil from light black, sandy loam to clay loam.
- Whole or split mother rhizomes are used for planting. Care should be taken that the rhizomes are healthy and disease free. The planting is generally done during May-June or July-August.
- The plant requires heavy manuring while growing with adequate supply of water if grown in moderate rainfall areas.
- Harvesting of the crop generally extends from January to April. Early varieties of turmeric mature in 7-8 months while medium varieties take 8-9 months to fully mature. The crop is ready for harvesting when the leaves turn yellow and look dried up.
- Harvesting can be done both manually and mechanically. The picked rhizomes are then collected, cleaned and sent for curing.
- The curing of turmeric involves boiling of the freshly harvested rhizomes in water and then drying them in the sun. Care should be taken that the curing process is done within 2-3 days of harvesting.
- The objective of cooking turmeric is to give it a uniform color in the end, to remove the odor and harden the rhizomes.
- The rhizomes are cooked until froth comes on the surface of the water followed by white fumes and a characteristic odor. Properly cooked rhizomes are soft and can be pressed with fingers. Overcooking of the rhizomes should be avoided as it leads to discolorization while undercooking makes the product brittle.
- The cooked rhizomes are then spread in thick layers and dried under the sun for 10 to 15 days. A thinner layer is not desirable as the color of the product is adversely affected. Artificial dryers using cross-flow hot air with a maximum temperature of 600C also gives satisfactory results as compared to the traditional sun-drying method.
- After drying, the end product is polished for a better appearance using manual or mechanical polishing methods.
Varieties of Turmeric in India
Since this plant is native to India, there are many varieties found in India across different states. Some of the important and higher qualities of turmeric found in India are mentioned below:
- Alleppey Finger from Kerala
- Erode and Salem Turmeric from Tamil Nadu
- Rajapore and Sangli Turmeric from Maharashtra
- Nizamabad Bulb from Andhra Pradesh
India exports turmeric in the form of powder and as oleoresin. Alleppey Finger Turmeric is known for its high content of curcumin, which gives it a bright yellow color making this variety as one of the largely exported spices from India to all over the world. Along with this variety, there is a good international demand for other varieties like Rajapore, Erode and Nizamabad Bulb etc.
Other varieties of turmeric that are found in India are as follows:
West Bengal and Assam
Selecting Good Turmeric
As this spice is widely used throughout the country and India being the largest exporter of turmeric, chances of the adulteration of turmeric are certainly not meager. One of the most common practices that are prevalent in the market is the use of color dyes to give the traditional turmeric color to added fillers like sawdust, rice flour and starch etc. Metanil yellow and lead chromate are two illegal dyes used in the market to make a profit out of adulterated turmeric.
One of the easiest ways to check whether the turmeric powder you are using is pure or adulterated is to do the water test. Take some warm water in a glass and drop a teaspoon of turmeric on the surface. Do not stir or mix it. Leave it for about 20 minutes and then check again. If the sediments settle down at the bottom of the glass and clear water stays above, your turmeric powder is pure. But if the water turns cloudy, it is possibly adulterated.
Sometimes not just the powder, if you buy the whole roots there is a chance of them being adulterated too. These rhizomes are coated with a substance that makes them look appealing or real. Just pour some cold water over roots and see if they retain their original color. If the root starts losing color then certainly it is impure.
Cooking with Turmeric
Its been ages that we are consuming turmeric, learning about its miraculous benefits from generations long and the golden milk is the first thing you take even if there is a hint of cold, isn’t it?
But have you ever wondered why this super spice is consumed only with any kind of fat and never taken raw? Turmeric is fat soluble and it is lot healthier when consumed along with a little bit of fat. Without the presence of fat, the active component in turmeric, curcumin, takes a long time to pass through the stomach and into the blood where it can offer its greatest benefits. This is the reason why turmeric is always cooked and then served with the final product. Adding turmeric to curries and milk are the traditional ways to enhance the benefits of the spice. Other healthy fats that go perfectly well with turmeric are ghee, coconut oil, almond and cow milk etc.
Studies have revealed that turmeric, when consumed with black pepper gives tremendous health benefits than consumed separately. The reason behind that is, turmeric contains curcumin which has a tendency to easily get metabolized before getting absorbed in the body. Piperine, an alkaloid present in black pepper when combined with curcumin increases the bioavailability of the spice. It certainly increases the amount of curcumin being absorbed in the body thus enhancing its health benefits.
The golden paste that is made by mixing turmeric, black pepper and coconut oil is known as the secret to a healthy life. To make the golden paste in appropriate proportions, follow the instructions given below:
YOU WILL NEED
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup turmeric powder
- 1/3 cup cold pressed coconut oil
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- Place turmeric and water in pan, stirring over gentle heat until you have a thick paste. This should take about 7-10 minutes and you may need to add additional water along the way.
- Add the freshly ground pepper and oil at the end of cooking. Stir well to incorporate the oil and allow to cool.
- You can store this paste in a refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Turmeric is sensitive to moisture, heat and light, hence care should be taken that it is stored properly in a cool and dry place. You can use this paste in making the golden milk and in various curries etc.
Whether you include turmeric in your everyday food or mix it with some honey or lemon juice and just apply it on your face, turmeric is proved to be most beneficial either taken internally or applied externally.
Some of the prominent benefits of turmeric are listed below:
- Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and anti-oxidant property.
- It increases the level of the brain hormone BNDF and fights against various brain degenerative processes.
- Regular and proper intake of turmeric can help you increase your memory.
- Curcumin in turmeric improves the function of endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels, thus maintaining good functioning of the heart.
- Studies have proven that intake of turmeric can also help prevents various types of cancer as it prevents the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.
- Fights against depression, anxiety and also have been proved to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
- Also, when applied externally on the skin, turmeric proves beneficial in increasing the luster of the skin, slow down the ageing process and reduces acne to a greater extent.
How much to consume?
500mg to 1000mg of cucuminoids is safe to be consumed on a daily purpose. On an average there are 200 milligrams of curcumin in 1 teaspoon of fresh and ground turmeric. The number differs from the quality and source of the turmeric root.
Conclusively, turmeric certainly deserves to be called as the golden spice because of the various benefits it offers. This spice holds the crown in India as it is native to the country and as one of the most important ingredients used in every household. To add this healthy golden hue to your lives, Food and Wine India has brought to you some incredible recipes to try out this monsoon and take a step towards a healthier life.
YOU WILL NEED:
- 2 cups of cooked chickpeas, drained with liquid reserved
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp reserved liquid from chickpeas
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 large clove of garlic
- Add all the ingredients to a food processorand blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to get the chickpeas stuck to the sides.
- If you want a lighter hummus, add another tablespoon or two of reserved liquid from the chickpeas.
- Serve with your favorite vegetables and crackers.
Turmeric Overnight Oats
YOU WILL NEED:
For the golden milk,
- 1-2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp boiling water
- 2 cups coconut milk (or almond milk)
For the oats,
- 1+1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp hemp hearts, optional
- 1 + 1/2 cups golden milk
- Fresh fruit and honey, for serving
- To prepare the golden milk, in a medium bowl, combine the honey, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. Stir to combine, then stir in the boiling water to dissolve the honey.
- Stir in the coconut milk. Taste, adding more honey dissolved in boiling water if you want sweeter milk.
- Combine oats, chia, and hemp seeds in a pint canning jar, stirring or shaking to combine. Pour the golden milk into the jar and stir or shake to combine.
- Chill overnight or up to 3 days. To serve, top with fresh fruit and honey, if desired.
You WILL NEED:
For the waffle,
- 1+1/2 cups self raising flour
- 2 eggs
- 1+3/4 cups whole milk
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
For the double nut cream,
- 1/2 cup Nutella spread
- 1/2 cup creamy almond butter
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp instant coffee
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
For the waffles,
- Mix together all the wet ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Sift together all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet mixture in the centre.
- Slowly whisk from the centre, gently bringing in the wet liquid. Beat well and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat the waffle iron and pour 1/2 cup of the mixture onto the waffle iron and cook until golden.
For the double nut cream,
- Combine the all ingredients mentioned in a small saucepan and simmer or low until melted and smooth.
- Serve warm over hot waffles.
Turmeric and Cashew Pasta
YOU WILL NEED:
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 8 hours
- 2/3 cup vegetable broth
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly black pepper
- 1/2 cup chili pepper, diced
- 1+1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 cup parmesan, grated
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 300 gm linguine (or pasta of choice)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cups wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 1/2 inch thick
For the garnish, (optional)
- Pine nuts
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Parmesan, grated
- Drain the soaked cashews thoroughly and place them in the bowl of a food processor or in a high-speed blender. Add the vegetable broth, garlic, chili pepper, turmeric, salt, black pepper, parmesan, and lemon juice.
- Blend until you have a smooth, creamy and thick sauce. If you would like a thinner consistency, add a spoon of vegetable broth (or water) and repeat as needed until you reach your desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste. Add more turmeric if needed.
- Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the linguine and cook according to the package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat with the olive oil until it’s just barely beginning to smoke. Add the sliced mushrooms in a single layer and let cook, without touching, for 3-4 minutes until the bottom side is golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then toss the mushrooms, and cook for another 5-7 minutes, tossing frequently, until golden brown all over.
- Once the linguine is done cooking, drain over a colander resting on top of a bowl and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Return the drained pasta to the saucepan and pour in the turmeric cashew cream, tossing to coat. If the mixture is too thick, add in a bit of the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce.
Add the pan fried mushrooms to the pasta and toss to combine. Garnish as desired.