I first saw a turmeric plant as a little girl visiting my grandmother's home in Chandigarh, India.
All of my cousins and I loved playing and climbing the lychee and mango trees in the back of our huge home in Sector 9. It was always a special time for me visiting from America - getting to pluck juicy, ripe lychees right off the stem and wander into our beloved gardner's patch of okra, eggplant, and turmeric.
Mali, as we would refer to him, would complain about the grassy plant overtaking his garden, and mumble under his breath as he cut away the yellowing long, green grassy tops.
Years later living in Hawaii, I would be reminded of this scene driving past the grassy green sugarcane fields dancing in the wind.
Our gardner would pull the grassy part of the plant hard and just under it would be a bright orange root. I remember him taking his dark thumb hardened from years working outside and wiping away the equally dark earth from the large lump in his hand. He'd hold it out to me and I'd run into the kitchen with it, where my massi (aunt) would eventually wash it, peel it, and dry it to make fresh, powdered turmeric right from our garden.
I had no idea then that what they - and I - took for granted would become such a phenomena.
There is so much information out there on the benefits of turmeric, and I encourage you to look it up. But, the key items you want to keep in mind is that this root-like spice is actually a rhizome, just like ginger. And, like ginger, it grows underground, sending out roots and shoots from its nodes.
The key element that helps with all of the healing you hear about is only found in turmeric. It's called curcumin. It can be purchased separately, but I'm a firm believer getting what we need from our food and healthy diets is a better way to go. Keep in mind, that turmeric is poorly absorbed by the body on its own - meaning most of it will get flushed out of your system after you eat it. Why you want to pair your turmeric (whole or in powder form) with 2 elements: a fat and black pepper.
Curcumin dissolves in fat and thus is absorbed by your body more effectively when mixed with a fat, preferably a healthy one. Anything from ghee and cooking oils (as is common in Indian cooking), to avocado, olive oil, and even nuts.
Why is black pepper a good idea to use with turmeric i.e. curcumin? Well, interestingly enough, the curcumin, which on its own is poorly absorbed by the bloodstream, is better absorbed when there is piperine around. And, piperine is most commonly found in black pepper. (It's what makes you sneeze.) We are talking about this simple combination increasing your body's ability to absorb turmeric by 2,000 percent! There are studies to prove it!
The benefits of turmeric? Immense! Simply put, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory. But, what does this mean?
Inflammation is our bodies' way of healing illness and fighting disease. The simplest example is waking up to a sore throat. Your throat is inflamed, raspy, and uncomfortable. You're sick and your body is trying to fight back. Turmeric helps get rid of that inflammation so you can feel better. When we eat unhealthy diets and don't nourish our bodies with the good stuff it needs, we are in a chronic state of inflammation, which has been shown to lead to chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's Disease. You can actually help heal your body and prevent a ton of illnesses by just modifying your diet. Remember that old adage 'you are what you eat?'. Well, you are!
Scientists are feverishly studying turmeric to see how the curcumin in it can help with all of these diseases and even more. Here's an interesting article among the thousands of others out there.
But, you don't need studies to just pull more of this easily-obtained spice into your day! Should you go for the whole turmeric or supplements? I would suggest getting the spice, rather than just a part of the spice, into your food and daily routine. Largely, because the cause and effect of elements that are removed from whole food to be used as a supplement are still questionable. Does curcumin separately have the same effect at the whole turmeric? There are studies that say yes, and ones that are starting to say maybe not.
So, stick to the whole spice - fresh or powdered. Eating it certainly won't hurt you - so what in the world do you have to lose? Always consult your doctor, though, when making any big changes.
Drink Lemon-Turmeric Tea. Every morning, I love drinking what I call a 'mini cleanse in a cup'. Super easy, delicious, and nourishing. Mix juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper in a cup. Add 1 cup boiling water. Drink. It's best first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, but drink throughout the day as well. This always zaps my sore throat if I feel a cold coming on. Click here for more.
Dip your bread in it. We all love dipping bread into a little bowl of olive oil and black pepper. Now, just add a few shakes of turmeric powder to this blend and you've got all of your antioxidants, too!
Make tardka. This is the spice infusion that gives Indian dishes their flavor. You can make a batch and set aside in the fridge to add to everything from eggs to soups. Heat 1 tablespoon of ghee or oil. Add 1 teaspoon each of cumin seeds and turmeric powder. Cook about 15-20 seconds until the seeds sizzle and turn reddish brown. Add chopped onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook until the mixture brown, another 2-4 minutes. Store in an airtight glass jar in the fridge. This will last about a week.
Add Turmeric powder to your omelette or tofu scramble. Eggs are a perfect way to get your daily turmeric. Just sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder when scrambling or making an omelette. With the yellow of the egg you won't even notice the turmeric. I also add turmeric to my tofu scramble to make it look yellow like eggs. "Liberally shaken over chopped up poached eggs with black pepper!" -- Tip from Anneliese on Facebook!
Make Macaroni and Cheese. A few shakes of turmeric powder are perfect when stirring your cheddar cheese with a little butter and milk. The yellow turmeric will blend right in as will the flavor profile. Tip from Nick on Facebook: "I love turmeric! One of my favorite things to add it to is mac and cheese (call me crazy). If I'm reheating leftovers I'll usually throw a little turmeric in." Nick, I don't think you're crazy at all! And if you are, it's a good crazy.
Make Yellow Rice out of Turmeric Powder. Heat a tablespoon of ghee or oil. Add a teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder. Cook until it sizzles and the cumin turns reddish brown. Add uncooked rice and saute. Add water (double that of rice). Simmer until cooked and the water evaporates.
Add Turmeric Powder to hummus: Whenever I make dips, especially hummus, I always throw in a little turmeric powder. Even if using store bought hummus, just sprinkle a little turmeric in and drizzle a little olive oil over your bowl of hummus. Add some black olives and presto. A healthy after-school treat even for the kids. I love adding turmeric powder to my mock Cesar salad dressing and any other homemade salad dressing.
Kiss your pesto with Turmeric Powder. I love homemade pesto. This week, I used a touch of turmeric powder, and no lie it tasted better than ever. 1-1/2 cups fresh basil. 1/4 pine nuts (sub other nuts as well - cashews and walnuts are delicious, too), 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth in a food processor or Vita Mix. While blending, add 1/4 cup of olive oil. You can also add a clove of garlic and grated parmesan cheese. I love garlic, but find it tastes a little bitter in pesto, so I left it out. On the cheese, I leave it out so that I can monitor how much my family adds later. It takes nothing away from the taste.
Sprinkle Turmeric Powder over Popcorn. A great way to cut down on butter on popcorn is to sprinkle it with spices, including turmeric. Chaat Masala is also delicious when combined with Turmeric Powder on popcorn. I make my popcorn with coconut oil. Thanks for the reminder, Amy!
Pickle Fresh Turmeric. Wow. This is hands down one of the most delicious ways to eat turmeric. Simply buy a handful of fresh turmeric. Peel it, and slice it into matchsticks. Use kitchen gloves if you don't want yellow hands and chop on a surface you don't mind staining a little yellow. Put in a glass or metal jar (spices eat away at plastic), add juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Put a lid on the jar and shake. Keep in the fridge and shake every day. It will be ready to be eaten by day 6, but I guarantee half or more will be done before then. I love eating this raw between meals, on top of sandwiches, blended into salad dressings, chopped into salads, or as an accompaniment to an Indian meal. My 14 year-old will take a little bowl and just eat it up as a snack. Seriously! I would not believe it if I had not seen it myself.
Make a pot of Veggie Soup broth with Turmeric knobs. Whenever I make a batch of fresh, pickled turmeric, I always have tiny knobs that I don't quite know what to do with. They are too little to peel, but I don't want to throw them away either. I'll wash them and store them in the fridge, and then when I'm ready to make a homemade clear veggie soup broth, I'll smash them once with a chef's knife and add them to the broth. Here's an easy recipe.
Make Chai with Turmeric knobs. The above knobs are perfect in fresh chai. Boil them in your water along with fresh ginger. Here's my favorite recipe for chai. Freeze the knobs to keep them fresher longer and just add them frozen to your water. No need to peel.
Blend Fresh Turmeric or Powder into smoothies and juices: This is a super easy well known way to get in your daily dose of turmeric. I love it in my green juices. Thanks for the suggestion, Leah!
Mix Turmeric Powder into your glass of juice: Tip from Ellen on Facebook: 'I put it in grapefruit juice to treat colds'. A teaspoon of turmeric powder swirled into your morning juice will go a long way. Try an Indian sweet and sour treat: 1 cup orange juice, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon kala namak, or black salt. OMG!
Make 'Golden Paste'! I like 'adding it to coconut oil, heating both until it becomes a paste and then drinking it with warm almond milk.' Thanks for the tip, Puja!
Roast Turmeric Powder into your Potatoes, or any veggies for that matter. I love making turmeric potatoes for my kids and add turmeric powder whenever I roast veggies including carrots, squash, and asparagus. Sorry, I need to fix the pictures on this blog post.
Add Turmeric Powder to your Cashew Cream: Cashew cream is the perfect way to get your dairy fix without the downside of too much dairy. I always have it around. Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and one of my spice blends like Pav Bhaji Masala and you have the perfect mix to drizzle over steamed cauliflower and broccoli.
Make Indian Salsa out of Fresh Turmeric. Peeled and grated fresh turmeric is absolutely delicious. Add lemon juice, black pepper, black salt, salt, a chopped onion and sliced green chile for a quick Indian salsa. I also add grated turmeric to my salads.
Mash Turmeric Powder into your Avocado. Mash meat of one ripe avocado on a plate. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, turmeric powder, ground black pepper, and red chile flakes. Add chopped onion and tomatoes. Replace the olive oil with lemon juice and add cilantro for a quick guacamole with chips.
Make Turmeric Butter. Yep. Super easy to do. Take a tablespoon of regular butter or alternative (made from soy, etc.) and just mash in some turmeric powder with the back of a fork. Keep it aside to use as a spread on toast or when cooking. It's delicious on steamed vegetables and delicious when paired with some garlic for toasty garlic bread. What a great way to pair your turmeric with a fat!
How do you get your Turmeric on? If you have something to add email me, I might just add it to this list (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Every time you share this post, tag me, and email me your address, I'll send you a sample of one of our spice blends. January's blend is #ChaatMasala.
Thanks for all the love and support. I can't do it without you! xoxo Anupy