Turmeric is a root crop from the flowering plant of the ginger family. It is native to India. Here, it was not just a culinary spice. But, it’s also a significant religious instrument of the Vedic culture about 40 centuries ago. Consequently, the crop reached China in 700 AD, East Africa in 800 AD, West Africa in 1200 AD, and Jamaica in the 18th century. And although it has the same properties as saffron, it cannot be used as its substitute. Rather, turmeric can be simultaneously compared with ginger as its mild aroma, bitterness, and pungent flavor resembles the other. Turmeric is popular in Asia as it is the key ingredient in making curries. In the United States, on another note, mustard, pickle, and relish recipes call for turmeric.
- Turmeric is widely used as a dye. Indonesians used turmeric to stain their bodies as part of their wedding routine. Relatively, the most common yellow food coloring, Yellow #5, uses turmeric to produce its color.
- Turmeric is a natural pain reliever. Asians use it to treat sores, stomach pain, and liver ailments – both ingested and topically applied.
- The city of Erode in India is the largest producer and consumer of turmeric; accounting for 80% of total production and consumption in the world. Relatively, the city is also known as “Turmeric City” or “Yellow City.”
- Turmeric is a natural antivenom for snakebites, especially from a King Cobra.
- Turmeric can be turned into a paste to remove unwanted hair.
- A spoonful of turmeric powder can stop the leakage in your water-cooled radiator.
Turmeric Buying Guide
- Fresh and dried whole turmeric roots can be found in the produce aisle section of your favorite grocers and farmers’ markets. Ground turmeric or turmeric powder, on the other hand, can be found in the spice aisle section of the stores. Both variants are also available for purchase in Asian and Indian stores, as well as in some health food stores.
- When buying dried turmeric, either whole or ground, smell the crop and opt for the ones that have a stronger aroma. It is a better indicator of quality than just simply choosing according to the vibrancy of its color.
- As often, it is best to buy turmeric powder that is fair-trade certified and organic.
- Although online shops provide more convenience, experts claim that turmeric powders that are sold online are often old and compromised. Thus, opt for your local farmers’ markets for better quality products.
Turmeric Production & Farming in Texas
Fortunately, turmeric roots are easy to grow and it thrives in any climate. In Texas, turmeric produces the best roots if they are planted indoors, or in greenhouses, towards the end of the winter season. Texan farmers start by sprouting the rhizomes in small containers and transplanting them into a larger pot or planter once they see few leaves. They usually keep on a windowsill and check on them every few days, making sure that the soil is moist but not soggy. The leaves are also misted one to two times a day to keep its humidity. Once transplanted and the frost has passed, they transfer the pot outside, maintaining the same care all throughout the next three seasons. Turmeric takes about 7-10 months from its planting to be ready for harvest. Nonetheless, you can reap the root crop once the stem and leaves start to dry and turn brown.
Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:
Although ground turmeric or turmeric powder is more convenient to buy in stores, it would never be our best choice. Most of what’s sold in the grocers are cured and processed; hence, most people think that they’re getting a pure turmeric when in fact, it’s the opposite. Some manufacturers and distributors put on some additives for a fast-producing and more shelf-stable product. Thus, here are some additives that we found on some brands:
- Dextrose and Maltodextrin – It is a type of sugar that acts as an artificial sweetener, food neutralizer, and a preservative. Too much consumption of this ingredient can lead to body fluid build-up and high blood sugar.
- Extractives – These additives are made with essential oils or condensed flavor essence of different spices. It can be mixed with solvents such as alcohol, or water. They act as a flavor enhancer and it also contributes to a longer shelf-life. Black pepper extract, ginger extract, and turmeric extract are some ingredients that we found.
- Talcum powder – this silicate mineral is used as a food additive to absorb moisture and prevent caking. It is also used in cosmetics to help the skin dry and prevent rashes. Nonetheless, although it is classified to be generally safe to consume, its potential association with cancer remains disputed.
- Lead – this chemical is used as a food additive to enhance the flavor of the product while prolonging its shelf life as well. Although it is classified to be generally safe to consume, it has been associated with causing lower IQ and behavioral problems among children. Also, it can cause nephrotoxicity and cardiovascular effects among adults.
- Color additives – these are food colorings or dyes that are added to food products to improve its color. Some are natural and some are artificial. Examples of these are annatto extract (yellow), caramel (yellow to tan), beta-carotene (yellow to orange), grape skin extract (red and green), and dehydrated beets (bluish-red to brown). Nonetheless, this additive can cause skin irritation, rashes, and eczema. Artificial ones can also upset one’s stomach and experience difficulty in breathing.
- Natural and artificial flavorings – These are additives that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. For turmeric powder, some natural flavorings include black pepper and ginger powder.
Fresh and dried whole turmerics are commonly sold by the weight and rarely by the piece. In wholesale, it can be packaged by the mesh bag, sacks, or boxes that can weigh up to 25 kg or 50 pounds. On another note, ground turmeric or turmeric powder can come in pet bottles, jars, tubs, glass and plastic containers, pouches, and single-use packets.
Fresh turmeric roots are commonly peeled just like ginger. You can enjoy these by simply grating it using your Microplane or a regular grater. Then, you can add a teaspoon or two to smoothies, cold-pressed juices, meat marinades, salad dressings, stir-fries, egg dishes, yogurts, and even in baked goods like pies, muffins, or loaf. Ground turmeric or turmeric powder on another note, is traditionally used as a condiment or food coloring. Its complex flavor and vibrant color make it the perfect choice for spicing up meat (especially lamb) and vegetables. It is the key ingredient in making curries and Tex-Mex rice.
Fresh turmeric should be kept in a sealable bag or airtight container and should be stored in either the refrigerator, where it could last up to two weeks or in the freezer, where it could last for several months. Likewise, turmeric powder should also be kept in an airtight glass container and should be stored in a dark, dry, and cool place away from sunlight and away from hot and humid zones like stoves, grills, or ovens. For optimal potency and flavor, use turmeric powder within six months.
Craft the magic!
Now that you have turmeric on hand, or even if you don’t, below is a quick recipe for turmeric tea. This tea is truly a magical elixir. If you are suffering from arthritis, colds, cough, fever, IBS, asthma, COPD, and cystic fibrosis, drinking a cup regularly will surely help a lot. If you are to have a coronary artery bypass grafting surgery, drinking three days before and five days after the operation can reduce infarction by 17%.
Yield: 1 cup
- ½ inch fresh turmeric, unpeeled (or you may use ¼ tsp of dried turmeric)
- ¼ inch ginger, unpeeled
- 1 ½ inch cinnamon stick
- ½ tbsp honey
- ½ cup coconut milk (almond milk or any unsweetened non-dairy milk also works)
- ½ tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 2 pcs whole black peppercorns
- ½ cup drinking water
- Ground cinnamon, for garnish
- Grate turmeric and ginger in a saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients except the ground cinnamon for garnish.
- Bring to a low boil and simmer for 10 minutes, slowly and simultaneously whisking to avoid scorching.
- Place a fine-mesh sieve on top of a mug and pour the tea carefully.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon, serve, and enjoy!