ALL ABOUT TURMERIC
“Too-meric,” “choo-meric” or “tur-meric” — how say it you???
Along with yoga, oil pulling, tongue scraping and ghee, turmeric, or however you say it, has been paving the way, not only for a more exciting and holistic approach to wellness but to bringing back or creating an awareness around Ayurveda — opening our Western eyes to its ancient science. It's a brilliant example of my understanding of health: the new health rules are actually the old ones.
Of course, turmeric is hardly new to us here in the West (and especially in the UK), since it’s also a key ingredient in many of our beloved curries (not to mention curry spice mix itself) and gives our distinctly British Piccalilli that unmistakable colour. But this bright yellow spice is making a name for itself in its own right as it shows up in trendy “turmeric lattes” (inspired by Ayurveda’s classic Golden Milk) and detox teas on brunch menus everywhere. My love for turmeric is loud and clear — I’ve even gone so far as to declare it on a crewneck... as well as worn it down many a t-shirt (watch out, this stuff is powerful!!). I’ve also used just a touch of it to colour creamed coconut and make a beautiful bright yellow icing for my signature birthday cakes. Not only is this miracle ingredient packed with pigment, it also has loads of powerful medicinal properties, making it a valuable addition to lots of different recipes but, like with most things, it should be consumed in moderation.
WHAT IS TURMERIC?
Turmeric is a root, very similar in shape but slightly smaller than ginger, with a deep colour that ranges from ochre yellow to bright orange. The flavour is quite mild by itself, not as distinct as perhaps cardamom, ginger or cumin, but it lends a deep earthiness and fragrant background tone to a dish.
To obtain turmeric powder, the root is heated, then cooked with black pepper to make it more readily digestible. Finally, it is dried and ground until it resembles the powder we all know and love. This powder is readily available in most supermarkets, as well as health food shops and ethnic markets. Turmeric can also be used in its raw form, which many health advocates swear by, as everything in its raw form seems more potent from a first-glance perspective. In Ayurveda, however, we believe that turmeric is best cooked and ground because it makes its component curcuminoids more readily available for the body to absorb.
From an Ayurvedic point of view, turmeric has the following properties: warming, pungent, light, dry and digestive. Turmeric is Tridoshic, meaning it serves to balance all three Doshas. Despite being warming, this magic spice is great for balancing fiery Pitta — just be careful not to overdo it.
WHAT MAKES IT SO GREAT?
Turmeric is the superhero of the spice world, as it brings with it many benefits. It’s a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, while also helping with cleansing your liver, improving digestion and boosting immunity, thanks to its active component, curcumin. The word “curcuma” refers to the family to which turmeric belongs and comes from the Sanskrit for turmeric, “kunkuma.”
As an illustration of turmeric’s superpowers, the U.S. successfully patented it as a wound healer back in 1995. Luckily the Indian government fought them, on the grounds that turmeric was a medicine that should be available to everyone, and the patent was overturned two years later. The one damper is that turmeric quite difficult to digest, so it needs a little help to go a long way. In India, long pepper is used alongside turmeric to help absorption, but because long pepper is difficult to source in the West, black pepper — which also contains piperine — is an adequate substitute.
HOW CAN I USE IT?
Turmeric is very versatile, lovely in sweet and savoury dishes, in stews and desserts as well as beverages. Here are a few of my favourite recipes featuring this wonderful spice:
STILL CURIOUS? HERE’S SOME MORE INFORMATION