Showing posts with label haldi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label haldi. Show all posts

Mar 20, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Turmeric

Turmeric, haldi, huldee, curcuma, yellow ginger, kharkoum, saffron des Indes, munjal, kaha, Gelbwurz, whatever you wish to call it here 'tis:

Turmeric's name possibly derives from the Latin "terra merita" meaning "meritorious earth." Although turmeric roots are most commonly used in dried and powdered form they can also be used fresh like ginger. Turmeric leaves are edible and are often used to wrap and steam foods in areas where it is grown. Turmeric is highly prized for the brilliant yellow hue it imparts to foodstuffs in South Asia. Nearly every curry or savory dish in South Asia has a pinch of turmeric in it.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a perennial rhizomatous herbaceous plant belonging to the ginger family. It grows to about 3&1/2 feet tall, prefers well drained soil, a tropical to sub tropical climate, and requires large amounts of rainfall to thrive. Turmeric usually flowers during August in the heat of the monsoon in South Asia. The florescence occurs terminally on a false stem about ten inches in length, the small yellow hermaphroditic flowers are tri-lobed and surrounded by white or light green ovoid bracts. It is propagated through division of the rhizome.

By J.M.Garg - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
To make turmeric powder the rhizomes are boiled for about an hour then dried in hot ovens. The turmeric is then ground into the deep ochre colored powder you are probably familiar with. The chemical compound responsible for turmeric's bitter, acrid, slightly hot, earthy flavor is curcumin. Turmeric is one of the cheapest spices in the world.

A turmeric field near an Indian village.
In cooking with turmeric, a little goes a long way.  If you see a recipe with more than a teaspoon of turmeric, beware. More than a teaspoon of turmeric and your dish can easily go from having a mildly warm and pleasant aromatic flavor to brash, bitter, and acrid in taste. Unless there's a lot of yogurt or coconut to dilute that much turmeric in your recipe, expect an almost astringently earthy dish.

Helpful Hints:
The color turmeric imbues food with is a gorgeous sunshine yellow. There is really no substitute for it.  If in doubt, leave it out.

Ground turmeric is sensitive to light and will degrade if exposed to sunlight for long periods. Always store turmeric in a lightproof container.

Be forewarned that turmeric will also stain everything it touches, not only cooking and eating utensils but also your hands, teeth, and clothing. The chemical compound responsible for turmeric's staining abilities is quite oily, so if you want to get a turmeric stain out of clothing your best bet is to put some oil dissolving dish detergent on it immediately, work it in, and let it set for at least four hours before attempting to wash it out. Whatever you store turmeric in will permanently be stained yellow also.

Calmly currying on,