Silly Food Fact
Check out the label on your mustard container—does the list of ingredients include turmeric? This bright yellow spice has been used in India for 2500 years and is a main ingredient of curry powder. It is sometimes known as Indian saffron, although these spices are not related. Besides its role in Southeast Asian foods, turmeric can be used to dye fabric and also to color such foods as cheese, mustard, cake icing, and juice.
Why Our Bodies Love It
Turmeric has a long history as an herbal medicine. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to slow the spread of certain cancers. It also can help with digestive problems and inflammation. Currently, hundreds of studies are exploring turmeric’s potential in fighting dozens of diseases like Alzheimer’s, psoriasis, and bacterial infections. Stay tuned to see if turmeric will be the next wonder drug!
Care and Picking
A turmeric plant grows about 5 feet tall in warm, tropical climates. You can try to grow your own, but know that the plants cannot handle temperatures below 65F. The leaves are not harvested; instead, turmeric comes from underground tubers. Turmeric can be purchased as a fresh tuber (like ginger); look for it in Asian markets. Usually, though, you’ll purchase it as a fragrant, yellow powder.
See turmeric being harvested: Harvesting Ginger, Turmeric, and Galangal
Tips and Warning
When purchasing turmeric, color is not an indication of quality. But this bright color can easily stain! If you don’t want a yellow countertop or yellow hands, wash quickly with soap and water. Store turmeric powder in a tightly sealed container away from light and moisture. Add some turmeric to egg salad, steamed cauliflower, salad dressing, or baked lentils—you’ll get a brighter color, peppery zest, and health bonus!