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Turmeric: More Than Just a Stainmaker

Turmeric: More Than Just a Stainmaker

With the beginning of each year brings forth the culinary trend projections of the year to come. Last year was likely the year of the meatball and the French macaron, and this year, in an effort to cleanse us of our past sins and transgressions, the trends will consist of the liberal use of turmeric and heirloom everything (corn, beans, grains, and not just tomatoes). While many of you will have some working familiarity with heirloom varieties, the spice turmeric may be less familiar. While hardly as sexy, tasty or alluring as Sichuan peppercorns or smoked paprika, turmeric has something else going for it – significant health benefits.

Now I am as skeptical as anyone when it comes to purported health benefits of anything, whether it be acai berries tiger’s blood, but there exist some significant research that shows this rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant called turmeric might add more than just a little color to your plate. A fairly common ingredient in Indian, Moroccan and Southeast Asian cuisine, turmeric is a close relative to ginger is usually ground down into a powder, and holds a distinctly vibrant orange-yellow color that is well known for staining fingers and countertops. Beyond its ability to dye everything a lusty ochre color, turmeric is being touted as somewhat of an essential ingredient in the fight against everything from cancer to arthritis. Dr. Andrew Weil (that guru of whole and healing foods) recently touted turmeric for promising preventive attributes and its natural anti-inflammatory properties. Weil sites numerous studies involving the effects of turmeric and its chief active component, curcumin, and how this substance holds countless therapeutic advantages. This may be news to those fully entrenched in a western-styled diet, but turmeric has been used for a few thousand years to treat all sorts of illnesses and ailments – we are just a little late to the party.

So what if it is good for you, how the hell do you use it? Well be warned, turmeric will just about turn everything it comes into contact with a bright yellow (think Indian curry) so adding it to oatmeal will make it look like a bowl of sunshine (so to speak). It has a warm, earthy flavor that is akin to ginger, but without the severe spice or kick. Turmeric is more appropriately used in savory dishes containing lentils, seafood, lamb, chicken, and onions (preferably not all in one dish). The two things to note with turmeric are: always use turmeric with some sort of fat (butter, olive oil, etc) to bring out the flavor and use turmeric sparingly. Refrain from putting a tablespoon of turmeric in your lentil soup, unless you are making a 10-gallon batch. A little goes a long, long way. Here are a few turmeric-rich recipes to try out.

Feel free to provide some of your own turmeric tips in the comments section below – this could be recipes or stain removal tips.

Read more: Alternative Therapies, Alzheimer's, Arthritis, Blogs, Cancer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, Health, Healthy Aging, Natural Remedies,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

89 comments

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10:46AM PST on Jan 8, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

3:32PM PDT on Oct 30, 2013

Thank you !!

9:32AM PDT on Oct 10, 2012

It appears that the benefits of turmeric are significantly higher than I thought.

10:23AM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

Wonderful article. I forwarded it to my daughter who has arthritis. I love the hints on how to use it in various dishes.

I am going to try using it in my acrylic paints. It should give me some interesting color(s).

12:39AM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

Thank you for article.

12:38AM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

Thank you for article.

11:55PM PST on Jan 24, 2012

Much to my consternation I have discovered that I cannot contemplate the use of curry or tumeric unless I am shielded by a protective apron.
Once you have stained a garment, its life is short-lived .... ever after trying everything under the sun to remove the stain. Again I vow to wear my appron...

5:08AM PST on Jan 18, 2012

I use turmeric in my cooking fairly often. Last Halloween I made some cupcakes and wanted to decorate them in a festive way without using suspicious food colouring, so I mixed some turmeric in with the frosting. It tasted slightly unusual but not in a bad way, and it was great for drawing pumpkins! :)

6:37PM PST on Jan 15, 2012

noted

9:22AM PST on Jan 15, 2012

Good to know and good stuff!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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