Turmeric Tutorial

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Vegan Breakfast Burrito recipe that I posted yesterday included the spice turmeric among its ingredients. This is a spice I only vaguely recall hearing about, but have never used. So I decided to look it up.

Turmeric (also known as Indian Saffron) is best known as one of the ingredients used to make curry, but it has long been considered a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. Turmeric has been used throughout history as a condiment, healing remedy and textile dye.

[Textile dye? Okay, now I’m getting scared again…]

The description of turmeric that I read indicated that it has a “peppery, warm and bitter flavor” but, at the same time, has a fragrance “slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger.” Hmmm. An intriguing paradox, no?

Turmeric is an excellent source of both iron and manganese and a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber and potassium. It is also what is used to give your standard everyday French’s mustard its bright yellow color. Bet you didn’t know THAT, did you? See if you can impress people with that knowledge at your next barbecue.

(It is also suggested that you consider wearing kitchen gloves when handling this spice as its deep color can easily stain. Although if you get to it fast enough, soap and water ought to get it off of your hands.)

And this helpful suggestion I found: If you are able to find turmeric rhizomes in the grocery store, you can make your own fresh turmeric powder by boiling, drying and then grinding it into a fine consistency. Why, yes. I can certainly see us all doing THAT. Just point me in the direction of the McCormick’s, please.

Now, all of that background information aside, here are the claims being made for its medicinal properties. You can read all the scientific stuff (yawn) about these claims here.

An Effective Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Relief for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Help for Cystic Fibrosis Sufferers
Cancer Prevention
Turmeric and Onions May Help Prevent Colon Cancer
Turmeric Teams Up with Cauliflower to Halt Prostate Cancer
Reduce Risk of Childhood Leukemia
Improved Liver Function
Cardiovascular Protection
Lowers Cholesterol
Protection against Alzheimer's Disease

Holy crap. Who knew a horribly-named spice like turmeric had so much going for it? I mean, really. I’m starting to think that a couple of teaspoons of turmeric every day will ensure my immortality. But I’m for sure adding this to my grocery list because I’m always looking for a way to perk up my vegetables. And I still want to make that Breakfast Burrito.

So assuming you have some turmeric jammed into a kitchen cupboard somewhere, but have no idea why you bought it or what you should use it for, here are some ideas – but don’t go crazy with it; apparently it can get bitter if overused:

- Spice up sautéeed onions, potatoes and/or cauliflower;

- Make a creamy vegetable dip: Just mix plain yogurt with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise and turmeric, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with raw cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama and broccoli florets.

- Add turmeric to egg salad to give it an even bolder yellow color.

- Add to sautéed apples

- Mix brown rice with raisins and cashews and season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.

- Turmeric is a great spice to complement recipes that feature lentils.

- Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding some turmeric powder to them.

So there you go. Everything you always wanted to know about turmeric. And then some…