Turmeric

„Spice of Life“

Hardly any other spice is ascribed so many healing properties – “turmeric” or “Indian saffron” are just two of the many names for this multi-purpose superfood.
But what are the actual benefits of turmeric root and how is the spice best used at home?

Origin of the root and its way to Europe

Turmeric grows as a rhizome of the plant of the same name, which can reach a height of up to one metre and belongs to the ginger root family. When in bloom, it shines in rich pink or white and thus does not give any hint of the bright yellow colour of the root under the ground. In a figurative sense, however, the “turmeric” has its roots in Southeast Asia or India, which is also considered the largest cultivation area and where the highest proportion of consumers can be found. Turmeric found its way to Europe in the 13th century, when Marco Polo first described a “fruit similar to saffron”. In India and China, the root has been used for cooking and medicine for over 5,000 years.

In Indonesia, especially on the Hindu island of Bali, it still serves a religious purpose today. A frequent offering is the so-called Nasi Kuning (yellow rice), which is formed into a cone with the help of a banana leaf. But turmeric is also an important ingredient for colour and taste in traditional nasi goreng.

Turmeric as a miracle cure in medicine

In traditional Chinese medicine and in the Indian Ayurveda medicine, the yellow root is said to have numerous healing effects. Besides positive effects on digestion, respiratory tract and joints, it is even used to cure liver diseases and diabetes.

However, verifiable effects could be proven especially with regard to digestion and the root’s anti-inflammatory active ingredients. On the one hand, turmeric promotes fat metabolism and thus has a positive effect on digestion. On the other, the curcumin contained in the root inhibits the formation of inflammatory messenger substances in the cells and thus counteracts the degradation of joint cartilage.

Turmeric as a spice for cooking

Turmeric best develops its effect and aroma by putting heat to it. In the kitchen, the spice is used as a powder or root and, compared to ginger, tastes rather mildly spicy and slightly earthy. Its yellow colour, similar to saffron, is particularly striking and is even used as a colouring agent in the food industry. Therefore, be careful when cooking with it, because turmeric does not only colour food bright yellow. The skin also absorbs the stubborn colour on contact, which is why it is best to work with gloves. If your fingers or clothes do get some of the colour, the sun will bleach it out again, as it is particularly sensitive to light. What few people know: Turmeric does not always have to be yellow. The “citric root” is also called white turmeric, smells of ginger and mango and is used especially for perfume and liqueur production.

For the use of turmeric at home, powder or the root are usually used. As with ginger, the root is usually simply peeled and finely grated. When using organic roots, the peel can also be used. Tip from the kitchen: If you prefer to work with the peeled product, you can simply scrape the peel off with a spoon.

Turmeric can also be used as a paste for curry or the so-called “golden milk”. Producing the paste, it is mixed with water and reduced until it becomes a thick paste that can be stored in the refrigerator. Incidentally, the spice is best absorbed into the bloodstream in combination with black pepper and also tastes great as a tea.

Turmeric is an ingredient in many curry powders and is also sometimes used in western cuisine to colour mustard. In its region of origin, India, the dried powder is part of the basic equipment of every kitchen and is used, for example, in turmeric rice or in masala mixtures. In Indonesia, Cambodia and Thailand, turmeric is also an important ingredient in many dishes. In Satay Gai and Khao Mok Gai, for example, it is hard to imagine the right taste of the dishes without turmeric. These dishes are part of our Thai street food cooking class, but the importance of turmeric should not be underestimated in the Thai curry cooking class either, because in addition to important ingredients such as coconut milk and vegetables, it is precisely the right seasoning that plays a role.

If you want to read more about healing and healthy roots, read about ginger “The spicy all-rounder” or galangal “Spice, universal remedy & aphrodisiac“.

And if you now feel like travelling to India, don’t forget your visa.

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