Find out why you should cook with turmeric and how to use it.
Turmeric, commonly known as an ingredient in Asian food and for its ability to stain a white shirt yellow, is most commonly recognised as a cooking ingredient in its powder form.
Asian cuisine uses a variety of spices which not only build flavour but are also valued for their healing or medicinal values and turmeric is one of these spices.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a root from the ginger family and is comprised of rhizomes which when broken, reveal a deep orange colour inside which stains anything it touches.
It can be used sliced or chopped like fresh ginger, or more commonly dried and ground to a powder.
The turmeric rhizomes are gathered and dried in hot ovens, then ground to make turmeric powder.
Why it’s so popular
Turmeric has been widely used in Indian Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for generations.
It is considered a cooling spice which can help strengthen the body’s immunity, commonly used in food for its anti inflammatory, antioxidant and healing properties. It is also applied topically as a paste for wounds or skin rashes.
The main active component is Curcumin which is well-known for its medicinal benefits, as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial ingredient.
However, it seems that Curcumin’s medicinal properties cannot be achieved by consuming turmeric alone. This is because of its poor bioavailability due to its rapid metabolism in the liver and intestinal wall.
It is interesting to note that when heated and used with freshly crushed black pepper, its bioavailability increases by approximately 20 times.
Turmeric also contains beta-carotene, calcium, flavonoids, iron, niacin, potassium, zinc and other nutrients.
What does it taste like?
Turmeric has a deep pungent, earthy and bitter flavour.
The fresh leaves of the plant are used in South India to wrap and cook food, and this imparts a distinctive earthy flavour.
Cooking with turmeric
Used in millions of homes and kitchens, turmeric is a vital component of the spices which make up Indian, Persian, Middle-Eastern, Thai, and African cuisines.
It is used in cooking primarily for its medicinal and colour properties.
Add it along with other spices. Only a small amount of the powder is needed to give a golden colour, while too much will overpower the flavour of the dish.
If using in powder form, to ensure even distribution and so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, mix with a little bit of water and make into a paste, then add to the dish.
If you are using the root, wear gloves as it will stain your fingers, then grate or slice it.
How to store it
Ground turmeric will keep in an airtight container, away from sunlight, for around 6 months.
Fresh turmeric can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.