Archive for August 12th, 2011

Turmeric – Curcuma longa

Turmeric from Koehler's Medicinal-Plants 1887
Turmeric from Koehler’s Medicinal-Plants 1887

Curry in a Hurry

For an intimate meal – exotic, dreamy –
Chicken Tikka Masala is rich and creamy.
Add marinade to each diced breast
In a bowl to give it zest.
Fry it with fresh cream (not too thick!)
And don’t forget the turmeric.
Sniff the aroma, taste the spice
Then serve it up with naan and rice.


By John Mole, Food Laureate

This cousin of Ginger (     ) is native to tropical South America where it prefers warm climes, rich soil that is well drained, but moist. The rhizomes have been used in cooking and medicine for over 4000 years.


In Ayurvedic medicine it has been used to treat cuts, burns, and bruises. Some believe it has fluorides, which makes it good for tooth health. Taken as a tea it is useful for the treatment of stomach ailments. It has anti-inflammatory properties which make it useful in the treatment of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Its anti-inflammatory properties also make it useful for arthritis flare-ups, muscle pulls, etc.


In Asian cooking it is one of the prime ingredients of the Curry spice blend; and in American cooking it colors yellow mustard, and flavors and colors bread & butter pickles. It is often used as a safe food coloring, sometimes combined with annatto for the yellow tint. In Africa it is added to rice to give it a yellow color, and in Nepal it is added to the traditional meat dumplings (Momos).


As a fabric dye it has been used for centuries, but it is not lightfast, fading quickly. Nevertheless it has been used to dye silk, wool and the robes of Buddhist monks. It is used commonly in Indian clothing, such as saris, and is used to dye wedding clothing. It was believed that clothing dyed with turmeric afforded protection against diseases that carry fever.