Herb and Spice of the Week – Turmeric

June 11, 2015 at 5:16 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | 1 Comment
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Turmeric

Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) /ˈtɜrmərɪk/ or /ˈtjuːmərɪk/ or /ˈtuːmərɪk/ is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native in southwest India, and needs temperatures between 20 and 30 °C (68 and 86 °F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes, and propagated from some of those rhizomes in the following season.

When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in Indian cuisine, Pakistani cuisine and curries, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. One active ingredient is curcumin, which has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.

 

 

Turmeric is a perennial herbaceous plant, which reaches up to 1 m tall. Highly branched, yellow to orange, cylindrical, aromatic rhizomes are found. The leaves are alternate and arranged in two rows . They are divided into leaf sheath, petiole, and leaf blade. From the leaf sheaths, a false stem is formed. The petiole is 50 to 115 cm long. The simple leaf blades are usually 76 to 115 cm long and rarely up to 230 cm. They have a width of 38 to 45 cm and are oblong to elliptic narrowing at the tip .

 

Processed Turmeric

Processed Turmeric

Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It is one of the key ingredients in many Asian dishes. Indian traditional medicine, called Siddha, has recommended turmeric for medicine. Its use as a coloring agent is not of primary value in South Asian cuisine.

Turmeric is mostly used in savory dishes, but is used in some sweet dishes, such as the cake sfouf. In India, turmeric plant leaf is used to prepare special sweet dishes, patoleo, by layering rice flour and coconut-jaggery mixture on the leaf, and then closing and steaming it in a special copper steamer (goa).

In recipes outside South Asia, turmeric is sometimes used as an agent to impart a rich, custard-like yellow color. It is used in canned beverages, baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cakes, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn color, cereals, sauces, gelatins, etc. It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders.

Most turmeric is used in the form of rhizome powder; in some regions (especially in Maharashtra, Goa, Konkan and Kanara), turmeric leaves are used to wrap and cook food. Turmeric leaves are mainly used in this way in areas where turmeric is grown locally, since the leaves used are freshly picked. Turmeric leaves impart a distinctive flavor.

Although typically used in its dried, powdered form, turmeric is also used fresh, like ginger. It has numerous uses in

Turmeric powder

Turmeric powder

Far Eastern recipes, such as pickle that contains large chunks of soft turmeric, made from fresh turmeric.

* Turmeric is widely used as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. Many Persian dishes use turmeric as a starter ingredient. Almost all Iranian khoresh dishes are started using onions caramelized in oil and turmeric, followed by other ingredients.

* In India and Nepal, turmeric is widely grown and extensively used in many vegetable and meat dishes for its color, and is also used for its supposed value in traditional medicine.

* In South Africa, turmeric is used to give boiled white rice a golden color.

* In Vietnamese cuisine, turmeric powder is used to color and enhance the flavors of certain dishes, such as bánh xèo, bánh khọt, and mi quang. The powder is also used in many other Vietnamese stir-fried and soup dishes.

* In Indonesia, turmeric leaves are used for Minangese or Padangese curry base of Sumatra, such as rendang, sate padang, and many other varieties.

* In Thailand, fresh turmeric rhizomes are widely used in many dishes, in particular in the southern Thai cuisine, such as the yellow curry and turmeric soup.

* In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian saffron because it was widely used as an alternative to the far more expensive saffron spice.
In India, turmeric has been used traditionally for thousands of years as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments, as well as topically to heal sores, basically for its supposed antimicrobial property. In the Siddha system (since around 1900 BCE) turmeric was a medicine for a range of diseases and conditions, including those of the skin, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal systems, aches, pains, wounds, sprains, and liver disorders. A fresh juice is commonly used in many skin conditions, including eczema, chicken pox, shingles, allergy, and scabies.

The active compound curcumin is believed to have a wide range of biological effects including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antibacterial, and antiviral activities, which indicate potential in clinical medicine.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “there is little reliable evidence to

Turmeric rhizome and powder.

Turmeric rhizome and powder.

support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted.”

Although trials are going on for the use of turmeric to treat cancer, doses needed for any effect are difficult to establish in humans.

Some research shows compounds in turmeric to have antifungal and antibacterial properties; however, curcumin is not one of them.

As of December 2013, turmeric is being evaluated for its potential efficacy against several human diseases in clinical trials, including kidney and cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, several types of cancer, and irritable bowel disease. Turmeric is also being investigated for potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and other clinical disorders.
Turmeric makes a poor fabric dye, as it is not very light fast, but is commonly used in Indian and Bangladeshi clothing, such as saris and Buddhist monks’ robes. Turmeric (coded as E100 when used as a food additive) is used to protect food products from sunlight. The oleoresin is used for oil-containing products. A curcumin and polysorbate solution or curcumin powder dissolved in alcohol is used for water-containing products. Over-coloring, such as in pickles, relishes, and mustard, is sometimes used to compensate for fading.

In combination with annatto (E160b), turmeric has been used to color cheeses, yogurt, dry mixes, salad dressings, winter butter and margarine. Turmeric is also used to give a yellow color to some prepared mustards, canned chicken broths, and other foods (often as a much cheaper replacement for saffron).

Turmeric paper (paper steeped in a tincture of turmeric and allowed to dry) is used in chemical analysis as an indicator for acidity and alkalinity.

 

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