When I was in my early 20s, I spent a year living in a small village near Bombay (now Mumbai), India. I learned a lot that year! One of the things I found so interesting was the culinary use of medicinal spices and the precise understanding of the uses of these spices for healing. Food is medicine - that was a given! I'll always remember that when someone caught a cold, they were given hot milk (often Buffalo milk) with a small spoonful of turmeric stirred in.
Turmeric, an herb from the ginger family, is a powerful antioxidant and supports healthy inflammation. It's been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic Indian medicine for centuries. The benefits of turmeric come from curcumin, the active constituent, which appears to have a wide range of therapeutic benefits, including protection from free radical damage and promoting healthy inflammatory response in the body. It also helps protect the liver and may help to improve circulation and promote healthy blood vessels and circulation.
If you like curry, you are already familiar with turmeric's sharp and earthy flavor. Turmeric tastes pleasantly spicy - suitable for vegetables, meat, seafood and even fruit-based desserts. A little goes a long way, though, and the flavor gets stronger as it cooks. Turmeric's dark yellow, almost orange color will strongly tint anything you add it to - a wonderfully natural food dye. Here are some ways I've used turmeric, just remember that the color of your dish will change!
- Add 1/4 teaspoon to a pot of grain while cooking. Best bets: brown rice, Basmati rice, quinoa or millet
- Stir 1/2 to 1 teaspoon into a pot of soup
- Add a dash to your favorite guacamole
- Add a healthy pinch to a container of hummus
- Mix a little into bean spreads for sandwiches
- Stir fry veggies such as broccoli, onion, carrots and sweet peppers, and add a pinch of turmeric along with some ginger, garlic and tamari
- Stir a dash into yogurt
- Make a banana smoothie truly yellow by adding a pinch of turmeric
- Make salad dressing and add a pinch, or add it to your favorite bottled dressing
You'll find turmeric used abundantly in Eastern and Middle Eastern dishes as a seasoning and a condiment, and for obvious reasons, a culinary dye! You'll also find it used in plenty of our own delicious recipes. Here are some to whet your appetite:
- Red Lentils with Garlic and Onions
- Couscous Marrakech
- Flavors of India Roasted Chicken
- Moroccan Spiced Chickpea and Lentil Soup
- Moroccan Braised Lamb and Eggplant
- Zesty Spiced Cauliflower
Are you familiar with turmeric? Got a favorite recipe? I'd love to hear your experiences.