Tuesday, March 13, 2007

MySpice -- Turmeric

Turmeric known as Haldi in Hindi and Halud in Bengali, is another spice omnipresent in Indian culture, not only in cooking but also as a part of various other rituals.
It is a member of the Ginger family and is native to South East Asia. The root is dried and ground to a fine bright Yellow Powder which is used extensively to flavor and color Indian curries. The Sanskrit word for Turmeric is Haridra which means “Yellow Wood” and that is what the dried root looks like. The spice has an earthy, bitter flavor, and it is added to Indian curries in a very small proportion as an excess of it ruins the taste

Turmeric is also used extensively in Indian rituals and signifies prosperity and fertility. In Indian Hindu weddings, applying turmeric paste to the bride and groom on the morning of the wedding is an important part of the wedding ceremony. In Bengali weddings its the grooms side who send this turmeric paste along with several other gifts for the bride on the morning of the wedding and these gifts are known as "Gaye Halud er Tatwa"

In the Southern Part of India, Turmeric is also a offered to married women as part of a ritual called “Haldi Kumkum”. Please correct me as I am not much aware of this ritual.

Why Turmeric Is Good For You

In Ayurveda Medicine, turmeric is considered to have numerous medicinal properties. It was considered as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent in India and was used for cuts and burns. It was also said to purify blood and my Ma insisted that a small ball of turmeric paste & jaggery (fresh turmeric was used for this and not the powder) eaten every morning would purify the blood and alleviate all stomach problems. Its another thing that the pungent taste of freshly grated or ground turmeric didn’t actually salivate my taste buds and so I would keep away from those tiny balls of goodness

Turmeric contains Curcumin which is anti-inflammatory and used for psoriasis treatment.Recent studies have shown that turmeric reduces cholesterol, blocks progression of neurological diseases like Alzheimers and works wonder in short

A very nice and appetizing way to include fresh Turmeric in my diet other than the powder which I simply cannot live without is something I learnt from M (not a Bong but a Marathi), a cousin of my cousin M. So say M1 is my cousin and M2 is M1’s cousin. Now M2 (an excellent cook) has been very kind and has fed me delectable food on two occasions, but stupid me has lost her number and since M1 has moved back to India, have never been able to call M2 since.
Now once when we were at M2’s for dinner she declared “I have to have green chillies with my meal, I love munching on them and I always do this”, saying which she took out a pretty flat container from the refrigerator where in there were sliced vibrant green chillies and slivers of bright orange carrot like thing floating in lime juice. Very happily I too took some of the chillies and the “orange” thing thinking all the time “why the carrot tasted different”. On finally giving voice to my thought, M2 said the weren’t carrots but juliennes of fresh turmeric and I was hooked.

Turmeric in Lime Juice

Since then I buy fresh yellow turmeric from the Indian Grocery Store when ever I remember to do so, peel the outer skin, cut them up in juliennes, slit some green chillies, squeeze some lime juice and let the slivers of turmeric and green chillies soak in the lime juice with a little salt.
Note: Alternately in a mason jar add 1/4th Cup Vinegar, 1/4th Cup Water, few whole peppercorns, mustard seed, red chili flakes. Salt and sugar if you need it. Add the julienned Turmeric and green chilies to it. 
Refrigerate them and they stay good for couple of weeks. As the days go by the pungent flavor of turmeric is mellowed down and they taste better. So if you do not like them on Day One give them a try couple of days later.
Have it with your meal as a substitute for the pickle or let the pickle be and have it as one more thing with your meal.

Turmeric Info source: Me and my family, Wiki & this

Update: From all the comments I wanted to make a few updates which I think would be useful for everyone
Shilpa of Flog&Rosbif said she doesn't like the "staining" part which is true. I forgot to say, chopping up the turmeric may stain the chopping board so put a plastic wrap on your chopping board and then chop. Hands can be cleaned with rubbing lime on them, and even simple soap & water is fine. But if you have a French Manicure...
Maheshwari of Beyond The Usual said they use Turmeric for removing odor of meat while cooking
KitchenFairy of Secret of Taste and Gini of Salt & Pepper said that turmeric paste was used for cosmetic purposes. Yeah applying turmeric paste on your face etc. is one of the many popular uses in India
Supriya of Spice Corner says even the leaves are used to make some dishes for Ganesh Chaturthi.
Sunita of Sunita's World said they have a custom similar to Bengali Weddings called "mah-halodhi"

This goes to Weekend Herb Blogging brain child of Kalyn's Kitchen and hosted this week by Becky of Key Lime & Coconut


  1. WOW! that was a great one on turmericology and a great entry for WHB :) Suddenly that VICCO turmeric ad and song came to my mid :))


  2. I can imagine my face turning red with that chilli-turmeric!!! Good info on turmeric - I'll look out for fresh turmeric now.

  3. Sandeepa, as a child every now and then my mother would make me eat fresj turmeric. SInce it tasted so awful, I have never even thought of trying it again! Now your method seems to be a good way to get the benefits of kaancha halud without the taste ptoblem!

  4. Wow! Great info on tumeric and what better way to use tumeric in its purest form? I am gonna look for fresh turmeric now! Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  5. Sandeepa, that is great information. The recipe is really unique. I have to share this with my mom and uncles who grow turmeric in their fields. I bet you they did not about this either.

  6. Mishmash
    Yeah I too was tempted to write the "Vicco Turmeric, nahin yeh cosmetic" ad jingle but then thought the better of it :)

    No no, this isn't really hot, soaking in all that lime juice makes the chillis mild too

    You know at home in India often they grind the fersh turmeric instaed of using the powder. Even a dried turmeric roo is used

    Thik bolecho, amar Ma o oita khaoanar cheshta korto, it did taste awful
    But this one is way beter, specially after a couple of days it tastes really good

    But were you guys forced to eat fresh turmeric paste occasionally as a kid, is it a Bong thing or what ? But this I learned from someone who is a Marathi

  7. Very interesting info,loved reading it Sandeepa!Thanks:))
    I love root turmeric too,smells so good and great color too instead of that powder you get.
    I just finished typing a spice too ,a Mexican for WBB!

  8. hi sandeepa
    wonderful info.nice recipe with the fresh turmeric.

  9. Where did you get that turmeric? As a teen, I used to apply a lot of turmeric on my face to prevent pimples. I like to think that they worked.

  10. Great info! Sandeepa, I didn't really like turmeric until recently. In Vietnamese coooking, fresh turmeric is quite popular but not as extensive as in Indian cooking.

  11. Gr8 Info. Unfortunately I dont get fresh turmeric in my area. Also you were right abt the "haldi-kunkum" in south india. The newly married bride gets a plate filled with haldi, kumkum, a fruit, beetle nut leaf, supari and a gift evrytime she visits someone.

  12. Oh! This is excellent. I love love love posts like these! Simple yet very much needed on food blogs.

    But one more time you write M,M1,M2, Msquare thats it! :-)

  13. The bowl with tumeric and chillies look so good... and you have provided a very nice recipe for enjoying the benefits of tumeric..

    A very well written post Sandeepa...

  14. My, my, I was fooled, too, thought those strips were carrots! :) Not a big fan of turmeric not because of its taste but because of the yellow fingers after peeling them!

    But hey, I'm a chilli queen, and I love it in all forms - sweet, sour, salty - so if you say this is good, I will also find something to eat with this!

  15. thanks for a great post...really enjoyed reading it...thanks

  16. Interesting!!My mother used to give me the fresh turmeric paste not to eat to put that on my face to make me beautiful(Hhahaha).But really messy.Here fresh turmeric is available.For cough and all this will work?

  17. Oh..great entry for WHB.Loved the write up.Never tried buying frsh turmeric here though.We use this alot while cleaning meat and cooking meat with this helps takeout the odor.From beauty to cookery , everywhere it is so helpful.

  18. Can't imagine cooking most comfort food without Turmeric,nice Info!

  19. good info on turmeric sandeepa. we use its leaves to make genasale/kadubu for ganesha chaturthi.
    will check out for fresh turmeric from now onwards.

  20. Sandeepa, no we were not forced to eat turmeric paste. Looks like a good Bong thing to me.

  21. Wow, that did make good reading!

    In Assamese weddings, the grooms family send the paste of turmeric and urad dal(mah-halodhi) for the bride. This is applied to the bride during the ceremonial bath on the morning of the wedding.It is supposed to be a good cleanser...more like a scrub.

    Even I never liked the bitterness in raw turmeric. Ma used to give it later with honey, which was more bearable.

    Loved your method of having it!

  22. Asha
    I am not a big fan of fresh turmeric smell but the goodness outweighs everything else
    Waiting for your spice

    Thanks :)

    I get it from my Indian Grocery Store, almost all Indian Grocery stores seem to stock it -- theres a Yellow Turmeric and then theres a White one too

    I think Asian cooking share a lot of things

    Thanks for the info. But I have visited some friends for Puja or BabyShower and even then they did the "Haldi-Kumkum" thing, so I was not very sure

    Point noted. Next time its going to be X, X1, X2 and Xcubed ;-)

  23. @Sushma -- Thanks

    @Shilpa -- Updated my post but as
    I said if you have a French Manicure, you have to figure out :)

    @DilipJi -- Thanks and so nice to see your smiling face regularly

    @KFairy -- Yeah Mothers do that to you all the time :) Don't know about cough, never used it as a remedy for cough. Use Tulsi & Honey for cough

    @Maheshwari -- We too use turmeric powder to marinade meat/fish

    @Lera -- Yeah its like an everyday spice, can't do without it

    @Supriya -- Thats a nice info. Updated my post with it

    @Indo -- Not good if you are on the receiving end. This one is howvere really good

    @Sunita -- Oh, Urad Dal too. Your info also went in the update

  24. M1.M2......??? confused Sandeepa!:)This reminded me of what we get in Chinese restaurants....green chillies in vinegar and the likes.Now an Indian version with turmeric,so good!

  25. Oh Sandeepa, you are too kind to go to all that trouble for us devoted readers! :) Thanks for the tip, and in case you missed mine on how to get rids of smells on fingertips (maybe you aleady know the trick yourself), just rub your fingers on anything stainless steel under running water, and like magic, it disappears!

  26. B1 and J1 thank you for this post.

  27. Lovely post Sandeepa. Turmeric also has a lot of significance in rituals among Tamil brahmins. It is generally given to all married women - as a sign of blessing whenever they leave home, dried or fresh. And we just had a festival yesterday - nonbu, where a yellow sacred thread is passed through a slice of turmeric and worn around the neck. Turmeric is as Indian as it gets.
    Even Gujarati and other north indian weddings have this 'haldi' ritual a day or two before marriage I guess

  28. Sandeepa, thanks for your visit to my blog and nudge to post something. I finally did - been very busy last few weeks but did post something I had made and photographed nearly a month ago but never finished writing the recipe down!

  29. I still remember popping holud with water every morning to cure my bronos and pimples. My mom used to say it is a great antiseptic for the body.

  30. I love fresh turmeric...but never had them after coming to US. In Gujarat its called lili haldi...my granny to use to make it the sameway. I will be looking for them in indian grocery next time :) Thanks sandeepa.

  31. @Sumitha -- :)

    @Shilpa - Yeah saw that sometime on TV but never tried it. Good Tip though

    @B1 & J1 -- Are you on H1, F1, L1 ;-)

    @Nandita -- Thanks for sharing about "Nombu" didn't know about it

    @SJ -- lovely post you had

    @Pilgrim -- Ok, so that's a Bong thing then

    @Sri -- Oooh your grandma did this too, thats so nice to know. Thanks

  32. Beautiful picture. My mom pickles, muli and carrot this way with little ajwain. but this is very new to my.We use to grow turmeric in our garden.

  33. Sandeepa, that was one informative post. Loved it.
    My mom made me drink milk with a spoon of turmeric and some pepper pwd when I had a bad throat. Worked well, but I hated it:)
    We make this pickle too. I add some hing as well. The exact recipe is also made with something called manga-inji. No, No, not ingipennu of inji manga. Manga-ingi is a similar root that has a taste of raw mango and ginger. I sometimes get it at the local Indian store. I'll blog about it once I manage to find it.

  34. Informative post on turmeric - so auspicious to us Indians. Pinch of haldi with sandalwood paste works wonders for the skin. It works for me but then quite a few are allergic turmeric and develop a rash.

  35. Very informative. I think I've only had turmeric in curry powder. I love learning how healthy it is.

  36. thanks for the infos about another spice. I try to get it at the Asian store here, perhaps I´m lucky and since my daughter is fighting badly her pimples there may be a remedy. :)

  37. Turmeric is truly an awesome herb. I have used it in the past medically for Crohn's disease and try to add it to dishes when I can. I find that it goes well in rice, and quesadillas. You gotta love the color it adds to things.

  38. does green moong dal powder is good for face ( green gram powder)

  39. does green moong dal powder is good for face

  40. sunita's right about turmeric's cosmetic use, particularly before weddings. some groups say that the color symbolizes virginity, but it is also great for the skin, very cooling in hot weather, and makes you glow.
    it seems that fresh turmeric is only used medicinally in india, although it it occasionally treated as a vegetable or pickled, although this is often with white turmeric (amba hald) rather than the common red or yellow turmeric. turmeric paste, such as what is used on the skin, is often ground from the dried rhizomes that have been soaked in water.
    i use the fresh red turmeric for skin, mixed with sandal powder. i also use it to make thai dishes such as yellow curry, which uses lots of fresh turmeric.
    however, what to do with the pound of white turmeric i have been keeping?

  41. Hi, how long will this solution stay fresh in the refrigerator? What would be the shelf life ?


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