Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tropical glow without the juicer

The turmeric is halfway through its growth cycle at the moment. There is no sign yet of the creamy white fragrant flowers. It will be the end of summer, if not autumn, before the tops start to die back and a few weeks more till harvest. This is my third year growing turmeric. I am still amazed it is still alive after our cool wet winters.

It was originally planted in a pot of good quality potting mix enhanced with various manures and mulched with lupin hay. Being in a pot makes it easier to shift its position if the weather gets too cold. Last year I placed them in the shade of the north facing fence which here, means it is warmed all day by the sun. This year they are again north facing but under shade cloth against the rendered brick walls of the raised beds where I can keep an eye on them from the kitchen window.
The first year I left it be in its pot. That meant that much of the root in the centre of the pot had become sodden and too rotten to harvest. Still, there was over a kilo of fresh root in that pot, plenty to play with.

If you wish to dry your turmeric, it is best done soon after harvest. After washing, finely slice the roots into equal thicknesses, not bothering to peel them. Lay them on racks, evenly spaced. You can dehydrate in your food dryer, I simply left them in the house on the dryer racks and they were dry within a week. You can store in an airtight jar and grind as needed or grind the whole lot into a powder ready for cooking.

Homemade turmeric powder may not seem as brightly coloured as commercial powder. This depends on many factors, including the fact that imported turmeric is irradiated when passing through customs which strangely enhances the colour. The taste and the aroma of home grown are infinitely superior in my experience. This crop from one pot will last me for cooking until the next is ready.
Turmeric is much in favour at the moment as a gentle anti-inflammatory due to its active compound, curcumin, which gives it the lovely yellow colour. The United States National Library of Medicine’s database, Medline, a bibliographic data base, shows over 600 potential health benefits. However, curcumin does not become active until it is a) heated, b) eaten with black pepper to increase its bioavailability and c) adding ghee, coconut or olive oil when cooking. So, stop juicing it right now and start frying it gently and adding it to your meals. Otherwise you will have a very low absorption rate and waste all those precious attributes.

 It is all very easy… Look to traditional Indian recipes, they all follow these principles: curry powder always contains pepper and all curry pastes are gently fried before adding other ingredients.

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