Turmeric is an amazing spice, full of culinary, cosmetic and medicinal uses. I use it a lot, adding quite a subtle flavour, but also keeping us nice and healthy.
Turmeric / Tumeric
Turmeric is also called:
Indian Saffron, Tumeric, Yellow Ginger
French:curcuma, saffron des Indes
Chinese:wong geung fun
Indian:haldee, haldi, huldee, huldie
Indonesian: kunjit, kunyit
Turmeric is a rhizome with bright yellow-orange flesh and a tough brown skin. It has a peppery, warm and bitter flavor with a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger.
It it is best known for its use in many masala (curry) blends, and its common use in Indian cooking. It is usually bought in powder form but the root is sometimes also available from Asian and Indian grocery shops.
Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. 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”.
It was sometimes called “Indian saffron” because of its deep yellow-orange color and has been used throughout history as a condiment, cosmetic, healing remedy and textile dye. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory in the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine.
Its colour is fairly indelible – if you are working with fresh turmeric, be careful of your chopping surfaces – if using wood, it might take some time to remove the dye from the wood. However, sunlight will fade it quickly, so if all else fails, put the chopping board out in the sun for a couple of hours.
Its use in the kitchen
Turmeric is extremely strong, and actually gets stronger when cooked. A little goes a long way, so use it carefully and experiment with it. I keep a pot by the stove and include a little (no more than a pinch is needed) in my food each day.
Although its colour is similar to saffron, the culinary uses of the two spices should not be confused and should never ever replace saffron in food dishes. The taste is completely different. (Some recipes will recommend it. Don’t be fooled.)
However, it is wonderful in its own right, and can be used in many different ways.
- In almost any Indian dish. It is indispensable in many Indian cuisines.
- It is delicious sprinkled lightly on apples sautéed in butter, on steamed cauliflower, potatoes, on green beans and onions.
- It complements any recipe that feature lentils.
- Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding a pinch of turmeric powder to them.
- Cut some cauliflower florets in half and healthy sauté with a little turmeric for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
- It is used to flavour and colour butter, cheese, margarine, mustard, liquor, fruit drinks, cakes, jellies, and fruit dishes.
- Turmeric is a classic addition to chutneys, pickles, and relishes.
- Blend with melted butter and drizzle over cooked vegetables, pasta, or potatoes.
- Make yellow rice to colour compliment your other dishes – add a pinch of turmeric to the water as the rice cooks.
Don’t have any tumeric on hand? Some people say substitute 1 teaspoon dry mustard for 1 teaspoon of turmeric. I have not tried this, but can imagine it might work except in Indian, Asian and maybe Middle Eastern dishes.
It is used in rituals in Hinduism, and as a dye for holy robes as it is natural (e.g. obeying ahimsa principles) and cheap. In fact, its use dates back 4000 years, to the Vedic culture in India where it was used as a culinary spice and also had religious significance.
Still today, a rich red powder used in temples around the world, called Kunkum, is made from turmeric and lime. It is worn by men and women, after puja, as small a dot of kunkum worn on the forehead between the eyebrows, or in the middle of the forehead.
(photo from AFP)
Read some more:
- Culinary Uses : The Epices Centre, Make some Turmeric Icecream!
- Its many medicinal uses for all sorts of conditions, including cancers: WH Foods and Turmeric Web Site and here.
- More medicinal and culinary uses: Herbs at a glance
- For cosmetic use: Tumeric web site
- Photos of turmeric and turmeric plants: Spice Pages
- Fantastic photos of henna and turmeric hand ornamentation: HennaPage
- And a must see post from Mahanandi.
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