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Turmeric

10 Facts about Turmeric

1.) What is Turmeric?

           Turmeric (scientific name, Curcuma longa) is a type of perennial herbal plant, which produces tuberous roots. Fresh turmeric (non-powdered form) physically resembles like a ginger tuber, except that once you take off the turmeric peeling, it would reveal a deep-yellow orange color, a stark contrast to that of the yellowish color of the ginger meat.

2.) What are the ancient uses of Turmeric?

                        The first use of turmeric for cooking and religious purposes was said to have noted back in India some 4000 years ago. The magical power of the plant then travels as far to as China, Africa, and Jamaica.

Interesting Fact: The word is that in 1280, the famed explorer, Marco Polo, noted the turmeric plant as a cousin vegetable to the saffron.

3.) How to grow the Turmeric plant

                        This tropical herbal plant is grown indigenously in parts of South Asia. There are around 133 established species of this perennial plant throughout the world.

                        Yes, you can cultivate a turmeric plant in your own home. However, the plant thrives well in a warm climate with a reasonable supply of rainfall. Thus, it is recommended to let the plant grow indoors near the open windows (for a dose of sunlight for photosynthesis) if you live in an area with more than two seasons.

                        To plant, start by placing the rootlike nodular stem of the fresh turmeric tuber, called rhizome, deep into a big pot of soil. Occasionally provide the right amount of water to your root plant, and it will reward you a beautiful blossom on a lush of green long oblong leaves. You can dig up to harvest the matured tubers within 8-10 months. At a later stage of the plant’s life cycle, it will undergo drastic changes, a preparation for the near and time of harvest. The leaves will turn yellow, then brown, withered, as if the plant is lifeless.

4.) How to transform a fresh turmeric produce to its powdered form?

                        The turmeric we often see displayed in our grocery stores are in a dry powdered form. The process of converting the fresh herb into a powder is better left to the professionals due to its long and painstaking process, and this involves careful sterilization techniques.

                        To make turmeric powder, the rootstocks called rhizomes, are first extracted, soaked and treated in a water solution, and then heated. After which, the boiled rhizomes are meticulously drained then sun-dried or mechanically-dried. This process is critical as there is a tendency that the rootstocks could come out as overcooked. When the product achieves the required moisture content during the drying stage, it is safe to pulverize the dried rhizomes, producing a bold yellow powder that we commonly see for sale in sealed packs in our local supermarkets.

5.) Fresh Turmeric vs Turmeric Powder

                        If you use the powdered form of the tuber, you can save your time and effort by not stressing yourself from all the peeling, cutting, mincing, kitchen after-care, and other necessary chores for the preparation of the fresh root. However, if you want to express your creativity, then you can choose the hard route, and use the latter to flavor your food or drink. A word of caution: fresh turmeric can turn your hands and even your kitchen counter and cooking tools into a strong-yellow orange. Yes, turmeric flesh can stain unforgivingly, and that is the messy part of it. Nonetheless, it gives a richer flavor to your culinary concoctions compared to the powdered variant.

Bottomline: You can choose either of the available options- fresh or powdered form. But if you prefer to use the powdered form, it is best to consider the ingredients. Buy only the powdered product that is absolutely 100% made of turmeric; meaning it is not diluted or mixed with chemicals, food colorings, additives, or preservatives. So, check the food label.

6.) How do you store turmeric

                         Dried ground turmeric powder must be commercially sold with a UV-protective packaging to prevent deterioration when exposed to heat, light, and air once the product is geographically transported and displayed on the shelves or racks. In the same manner, store-bought bags of the powdered variant must be immediately kept in a cool, dark and dry place, or straight away transfer it into a sealed container and place it under the same storage condition. Over time, the flavor of the dried powder degrades, yet its color retains its properties. Moreover, turmeric powder, like most food products, can’t prolong its shelf-life for a lengthy period of years. Therefore, it is best to follow the consume-before-date instruction on the packaging.

                        On the other hand, you can store the fresh whole turmeric tuber in a refrigerator or freezer. You may stash it away peeled or unpeeled, and then keep it in an air-sealed (the extra air squeezed-out) refrigerator plastic bag. If you prefer the latter, it is better to clean it first under running water to scrub out the dirt. To prevent the formation of molds, pat it dry completely, then wrap it in a paper towel before storing it into the plastic. Meanwhile, if you choose the former, you can also wrap it in a paper towel before popping it into the bag; occasionally replacing it with a new clean wrap to prohibit molds from developing on the fresh root. If you spot a mold forming on the tuber, chop off the affected area, and then replace it with a new paper wrap. But when in doubt, you can throw it away and buy another one. Nevertheless, fresh turmeric root can stay in the refrigerator for a maximum of one to two weeks, whereas the frozen tuber can last for up to six months.

Interesting Culinary Fact: You may find this information helpful; you can use your frozen turmeric straight from the freezer without thawing.

7.) What’s the difference: Curcumin vs Turmeric vs Saffron vs Curry

                        Curcumin is the active chemical substance found in turmeric, which is responsible for its intense yellow to yellow-orange pigment. In other words, curcumin is a component of turmeric as a whole.

                        On another note, turmeric is commonly referred to as the Indian saffron purely because of its similarity in color to the saffron. But the two compounds are not the same, even though Marco Polo dubbed curcumin as having the same characteristics to that of the saffron. That is to say that saffron can only substitute the use of turmeric in terms of color but not for its flavor.

                        In much the same manner, curcumin, the color pigment in turmeric, is added to make the commercial curry powder. Since the curry spice is a fusion of other spices, turmeric is the principal ingredient that gives the depth of color and flavor to the curry powder. In spite of having curcumin as the main ingredient, curry powder cannot regularly replace turmeric in a recipe. Curry powder has an intense flavor compared to curcumin, which may give an undesired taste to your culinary creation.

8.) How many calories of turmeric per serving

                        When used in a moderate amount, turmeric has less than 20 total calories with carbohydrates lower than 5g.

Interesting Fact: Curcumin, the color pigment in turmeric, has an antioxidant compound called flavonoids.

9.) Culinary Uses and Traditional Medical Benefits of Turmeric

                        When used as a spice, turmeric gives flavor and color to your cuisine. Of the many accustomed uses of turmeric in cooking, one of which is by adding it to your boiled white rice; resulting in a  golden yellow cooked rice.

                        In traditional Ayurvedic practice, using turmeric may give a positive result of eliminating intestinal worms. It may also alleviate pain and fatigue, cure coughs and sinusitis, reduce arthritis inflammation, improve regular menstruation and digestion, and remove gallstones.

                        Because it is thought to have an antiseptic and antibacterial property, curcumin may promote the healing of wounds and burns. Other traditional and herbal applications of turmeric include, treatment of gastrointestinal disturbances and other skin conditions, excrete phlegm, and enhance blood circulation.

Interesting Fact: The term Ayurvedic is from the word, Ayurveda, which is an ancient form of alternative healing that originated in India some 3000 years ago.

10.) Is taking turmeric safe?

            The FDA, regarded turmeric and its active chemical component, curcumin, as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for use as a spice to enhance the flavor and color of food, added in an allowed quantity that is consistent to the manufacturing standard. So, such a motive is intentionally for that purpose, and by no means not to conceal the identity and quality of a food product. But there are further limitations as well; curcumin is not an accepted ingredient in infant formulas and foods under the authority of the USDA. Also, the FDA prohibits the inclusion of turmeric in “standardized mayonnaise (FDA, SP/ESO, GRAS) and salad dressing (FDA, SP/ESO, GRAS)” (Note: this regulation may be updated periodically; recommended to do further research on the FDA website about GRAS from time to time).

            Further to this, if you are taking turmeric or curcumin as an herbal supplement or for alternative medical purpose, rather than for culinary enhancement, it is better to disclose such action to your healthcare provider. Although it has a good reputation in ancient folk healing and complementary and alternative health approaches, there is yet no clear scientific evidence that can support the health claims or benefits of turmeric including its active substance, curcumin. There is no established intake of turmeric, but it is a spice used as an ingredient to improve the palatability of food, and like any other existing herbs and spices, it is primarily added to a food mix in a limited amount. In light of this, turmeric is high in oxalate, and excessive or unsupervised intake of which may give you renal oxalate stones. It may also cause disturbances in your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and could affect your liver and gallbladder. Not only that, abusive use of turmeric curcumin may delay blood clot, which could affect surgical procedures and other medical examinations. When you are on medications, turmeric and its component, curcumin, may contradict; such combination may cause undesired effects. 

Bottomline: Enjoy the possible anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric by flavoring a dash of it to your cooking. Though, it doesn’t mean that you have to consume turmeric-seasoned dish all day of the week. The key is to savor in moderate amounts, a variety of menu in your everyday diet. Also, to prevent side effects, it is better to talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking turmeric curcumin as an alternative herbal treatment.

Perfect Scrambled Eggs with Turmeric Kick

Here is one of the few culinary concoctions that you can create with a touch of turmeric powder. This recipe is easy to make, a perfect jumpstart to your morning. So, go ahead and try it for yourself!

Serves              : 1

Calories           : 253

Ingredients

1 whole egg

1 medium-sized onion

¼ cup low-fat milk

½ cup of baby spinach

¼ tsp. Turmeric powder

2 tsps. Butter

1 tbsp. Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Pepper as desired

Directions:

  • Cut-off the stalks of the spinach, then wash-dry the leaves. Keep it aside for a while. Meanwhile, chop the onion.
  • Crack an egg into a bowl. Lightly beat it until smooth and frothy. Then, whisk in the milk into the mixture and a sprinkle of salt.
  • Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, under medium heat, and then, melt in the butter.
  • Saute the onions. After which, stir-flavor into the pan, the turmeric powder.
  • Once the spices are well-combined, mix in the spinach leaves. Stir-fry all the ingredients in the pan but do not overcook the spinach.
  • Finally, coat the spinach by adding into the pan the egg mixture, but do not stir it yet. As the egg begins to form a shape, gently stir the bottom curd all the way across, using the spatula. Repeat the same step until the coagulated egg disintegrates, producing pieces of soft egg curds.
  • Occasionally stir-turn the spinach-scrambled egg mixture. Remove from heat once there is no visible uncooked liquid trace of the egg.
  • Serve immediately.

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