Turmeric is a rhizome, a stem that grows underground, that looks like a mini version of ginger. It is available in two colors: yellow and white. The outside skin of both varieties looks and feels very similar to that of ginger, its cousin, but the inside color is bright orange or off-white (like ginger). Yellow turmeric smells just like commercially available powdered turmeric, musky and earthy, while white turmeric is citrusy and sweet. There is more to this story than just pretty color and flavor.
Uses of Turmeric
Everyone knows that turmeric adds a tangy and earthy flavor to food thus turmeric is an important ingredient in Indian cooking. Turmeric is usually added to spice mixtures because it has properties that bond with the healthy and tasty attributes of the other spices to give a delicious flavor to food. It is always added to lentils when they are boiled. I asked my mother-in-law why it is so but she had no definitive answer other than this is the way it is done. Supposedly it adds flavor to the beans. I’m not totally convinced since the cooking liquid is discarded when the beans are done. Perhaps it helps in the cooking process to tenderize the beans. I add a pinch of turmeric when cooking egg whites for breakfast so that they have some color. I suspect that the source of this unwritten rule lies in the history of Ayurvedic medicine.
Medical Uses of Turmeric
Turmeric is also good for you for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Many people now believe that a bit of turmeric a day can prevent or reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis as well as improve memory. Based on some of the reading I have done, it sounds like turmeric is a miracle cure that can reduce heart attacks, cancer, ulcers and several other ailments as well. I have even seen turmeric pills for sale on the Internet – of course, without any governmental regulation or approval.
Based on the volume of articles on the benefits of turmeric, I plan to continue to use it in my every day cooking. If indeed the studies are valid, I might be one step ahead in warding of one or more of the diseases that this magic spice may cure.
Making Turmeric Powder
Turmeric is peeled and boiled, then dried and powdered before being used as a dye and in cooking. I wanted to try out making my own turmeric powder. So after peeling off the skin, which was very easy to do, I put the pieces in a pan of water and boiled them for 25 minutes. By the time all of the yellow turmeric was peeled, my hands and nails were stained yellow. I even had small yellow spots on my face where juice had splattered. The water in which I boiled the yellow turmeric turned deep red, just like a glass of strong tea. Once I removed the turmeric from the pan, I cut it into small pieces and spread it out on a baking sheet.
I set my oven on the lowest temperature setting possible and let it bake for 3 to 4 hours, turning the pieces over every half hour so it would dry out. The length of time required to dry it is a function of the size of the pieces you cut. When the turmeric is hard, shriveled and dry, I removed it from the oven and let it cool for a half hour before putting it in my spice grinder and powdering it.
One word of caution, since this is fresh turmeric powder, the color is very potent. As I peeled the turmeric, the yellow juice turned my cutting board yellow. Fortunately it is glass and I could easily wash it. The powder permanently stained the plastic list of my grinder. The red cooking liquid even stained the plastic cup into which I had poured it so I could get a clear view of the color. Please take care when making your own powder.
My fresh turmeric is full of flavor and color, almost as though it has been concentrated through the preparation process. You can use less of it than you normally would since it has not been sitting on a shelf in a plastic bag for an unknown period of time!
Visit KachisKitchen.com for many delicious recipes that use turmeric!