Wednesday, 15 April 2009


TURMERIC (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is an ancient spice, native to South East Asia and used from antiquity as dye, condiment and medicine. It is cultivated primarily in Bengal, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Java, Peru, Australia and the West Indies. It is still used in Hindu rituals and as a dye for holy robes, being natural, unsynthesized and cheap. TURMERIC is in fact one of the cheapest spices.

Its use dates back nearly 4000 years, to the Vedic culture in India where it was used as a culinary spice and had some religious significance. The name derives from the Latin terra merita “meritorious earth” referring to the colour of ground TURMERIC which resembles a mineral pigment. In many languages, TURMERIC is simply named as “yellow root”.

The rhizomes are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in curries and other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, for dyeing, and to impart colour to mustard condiments. Its active ingredient is curcumin and it has an earthy, bitter, peppery flavour and a mustardy smell.

TURMERIC is nearly always used in ground form however it is used fresh in Malay and Indonesian cooking where the leaves are also used in cooking. The powder will maintain its colouring properties indefinitely though the flavour will diminish over time so buy in moderation. Store in airtight containers, out of sunlight.

TURMERIC (coded as E100 when used as a food additive) is used to protect food products from sunlight. In combination with annatto (E160b), TURMERIC has been used to colour cheeses, yogurt, ice cream, orange juice, cakes and biscuits, popcorn, cereals, salad dressings, gelatine, winter butter, margarine etc. TURMERIC is also used to give the yellow colour to some prepared mustards, canned chicken broths and other foods (often as a much cheaper replacement for saffron). It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders.


In Ayurvedic practices, TURMERIC is thought to have many medicinal properties and many in South Asia (particularly India) use it as a readily available antiseptic for cuts, burns and bruises. Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine say it has fluoride which is thought to be essential for teeth. It is also used as an antibacterial agent.

It is taken in some Asian countries as a dietary supplement, which allegedly helps with stomach problems and other ailments. It is popular as a tea in Okinawa, Japan. Pakistanis also use it as an anti-inflammatory agent, and remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort associated with irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive disorders. In Afghanistan and North West Pakistan, TURMERIC is applied to a piece of burnt cloth, and placed over a wound to cleanse and stimulate recovery. Indians, in addition to its Ayurvedic properties, use TURMERIC in a wide variety of skin creams that are also exported to neighboring countries. It is currently being investigated by Western medicine for possible benefits in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, Alzheimer's and colorectal cancer. TURMERIC is also used in the formulation of some sunscreens.

TURMERIC paste is applied to bride and groom before marriage in some places of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, where it is believed turmeric gives glow to skin and keeps some harmful bacteria away from the body.


Indian Saffron, Tumeric, Yellow Ginger

French: curcuma, saffron des Indes
German: Gelbwurz
Italian: curcuma
Spanish: curcuma
Arabic: kharkoum
Burmese: fa nwin
Chinese: wong geung fun
Indian: haldee, haldi, huldee, huldie
Indonesian: kunjit, kunyit
Malay: kunyit
Sinhalese: kaha
Tamil: munjal
Thai: kamin

Source: Wikipedia and The Epicentre

PS: I have successfully grown TURMERIC in Canberra. I cultivated it from fresh TURMERIC bought from the green grocers.

Look for turmeric with small rhizomes. You will need a small pot with some seed raising mix, bury the root about 2 to 3 cm from the top and hope for the best. Do not over water, as it would rot the fresh turmeric. Leave in a warm sheltered position. When the plant is about 12 to 18 cm high, (providing the temperature is right), you will need to transfer it to a garden bed…. and watch it grow!

However you will need to protect the plant from mid April to Mid October, preferabably in a hot house as Canberra weather will be too cold for it.

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