Though having only recently entered the mainstream as the ingredient of the moment, turmeric – or Curcuma longa as it’s known by its biological name – has been used for millennia everywhere from China and India to Jamaica and West Africa. While it’s likely that just about every bite of curry you’ve tasted in your lifetime contains turmeric, there is archaeological evidence indicating its use over 4 500 years ago. It has also long been used as a sacred root for body embellishment during cultural ceremonies. The Hindu tradition of Haldi, for example, sees the bride and groom having a tincture of oil, water and turmeric applied to their bodies as a blessing before their wedding.
Other than its gastronomical and religious uses, turmeric was grown and harvested as a natural textile dye – for centuries the distinctive yellow of Buddhist robes got their colour from turmeric. In contemporary fashion circles, one of the world’s largest fashion dye houses, Tintoria di Quaregna in Italy, has made headlines for its return to plant-based formulas with turmeric featuring prominently. Hip cosmetics brands such as NARS, Kiehl’s and Urban Decay have also been inspired by turmeric’s ancient cultural use as a beauty aid (it’s said to get skin glowing) and incorporated it into everything from make-up and foundation to face masks and moisturisers.
And then there is the evidence-based healing and health properties of turmeric, long used in the practice of natural medicine – in particular Ayurveda, the Indian system of holistic healing. Curcumin, the compound responsible for turmeric’s vivid colour, is known to have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. This is a plant that packs a lot of punch!
HOW TO USE TURMERIC
Turmeric is on-trend, versatile, mild and earthy.
- Concoct a warm tea or iced tea with thinly sliced fresh turmeric and ginger, sweeten with honey.
- Make your favourite curry paste using turmeric and coconut oil. Store in a jar in the refrigerator and use in a sauce or when you make chicken, prawn or any other curry
- Add a bit of grated turmeric and cardamom to hot chocolate for a mild earthy flavour.
- For a pick-me-up a wellness shot mix grated turmeric, ginger and freshly squeezed orange juice. Add a little cayenne pepper at the end. Fresh mango or pineapple juice works just as well.
- Mix turmeric and paprika and sprinkle over cauliflower florets. Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Roast in the oven at 180 degrees in the oven on a tray until golden brown. You can do the same with butternut or pumpkin.
- Add to carrot, pumpkin, corn or sweet potato soup.
- Spice up breakfast by adding a teaspoon or two of freshly grated turmeric to your flapjacks recipe. Serve with ginger honey.
- Garnish your favourite cocktail with a ribbon of fresh turmeric just before serving and watch the colour change. Magic.
- Add a bit of turmeric for your Asian style broth or any mash such as potato, sweet potato, pumpkin or carrot and potato.
- Turmeric is a fast grower, shooting new growth from the tubers in early summer. They can quickly grow up to two metres within a few weeks.
- Turmeric is easy to grow during the warm summer months when plants will need regular watering. Grow tubers in pots with a fertile compost mix that drains well. Tubers should be kept dry when they are dormant.
- We love turmeric because it’s such an easy grower. The leaves are very attractive but it’s the flowers that are the real show-stoppers. They’re like hidden gems between tall, lush growth.
- It’s a little known fact, but the flowers also taste good!