Immunity Boosters Know Your Food

Turmeric – The Indian Saffron

Introduction: 

“Turmeric or Haldi is a fundamental ingredient in the Indian kitchen. If haldi-ka-doodh (turmeric milk) relieve sore throat then haldi-ka-lep or ubtan (turmeric paste) would do the trick on pain” says Dr Mira Raishinghaney.  She recalls how in her childhood her grandmother would make a haldi paste and apply on the part which was hurting. The paste would then be bandaged to be left overnight. Next morning, the pain would be gone! Messy maybe but better than a painkiller for sure. 

In fact, haldi is considered sacred and is an important part of social and religious ceremonies. In an Indian wedding haldi mixed in milk is applied to the bride-to-be. This process of beautifying helps the anxious bride to relax and look bright for the day. The age-old ‘haldi-kum-kum’ is yet another essential ceremony especially in Maharashtrian culture, the western part of India and Rajasthan.  

These and more anecdotes of haldi stories have ensured that this multipurpose condiment has a respectable place on our kitchen shelves. 

Turmeric (Curcuma Longa) is a part of the ginger family. It is a flowering, herbaceous plant. Used in powdered form in India, the bright golden-yellow color (curcumin) gives it a royal look thus earning an alias ‘Indian Saffron.’ Essential in Indian and Asian cuisine, the active ingredient curcumin helps turmeric to double up as a traditional medicine offering numerous health benefits. Today research is underway to explore and expand its role in preventing disease and cure. 

Setting it apart: 

There is hardly any Indian who will not vouch for the exotic ‘golden milk’ or humbly put “haldi ka doodh”. As a powerful health concoction, it is popular in India to combat bad throat. This home remedy is very effective in getting rid of various other health issues as well.  

In fact, it is a treasured medicinal spice in Ayurveda because it reverses certain ailments. The naturally-occurring curcumin lends those amazing health benefits.  

Cultivation and harvesting: 

Turmeric requires a sunny climate to thrive. It is a tropical plant and has to be planted in late winter. This condiment needs more than seven months to harvest and should be done when the stem and leaves begin to dry and turn brown. Haldi plant is grown from rhizomes 1500 m above sea levelFresh stems need to be cut off by about an inch from the top of the rhizomes. 

It flourishes in well-drained soil that is not soggy and needs a warm and humid environment. 

To blossom, it needs the temperature of 22-29 degrees centigrade and rainfall of 1500 to 2200 mm every year. It can grow in various soils. It requires more than 15 irrigations for heavy soils and more than 35 for light soils. It requires a pH of 7.5. 

Sowing and irrigation: 

Turmeric should be sowed where there are early (April) monsoons. The level of moisture impacts its growth and development, mostly during the rhizome bulking stage. The parent rhizomes have to weigh 35 to 45 g to be planted. The space the plant needs between the rows has to be precise and it has to be wrapped in a dry powder of cattle manure or soil. 

Medicinal value: 

Turmeric is known to be one of the most effective nutritional supplement. Curcumin, its core medicinal component, is powerful and has amazing benefits for the body and brain.  

It has wide-ranging anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects.   

Turmeric prevents heart diseases, Alzheimer’s, and it destroys cancerous cells to arrest the spread of cancer. As an antioxidant, it rids the body of free radicals that give rise to cancer. Another promising health benefit is that it is known for tumour regression and further protecting healthy cells from radiation damage. 

As it has no side effects it is favoured as an anti-inflammatory remedy over drugs, especially for arthritis. It treats burns, injuries, and skin diseases. It delays and in certain cases reverses brain disorders and degenerative diseases due to age. It helps to improve memory and delay ageing and alleviates depression and other age-related chronic diseases. 

Turmeric aids digestion and is an extremely important immunity-boosting ingredient.  

Nutrition chart: Serving size 100 gms 

Total Fat 3.0g 

Sodium 13mg 

Total Carbohydrate 687g 

Iron 1.14g 

Sugar 3.1g 

Protein 9.8g 

Zinc 2 mg 

Calcium 169.00mg 

Source: https://www.nutritionvalue.org 

A tablespoon of powdered haldi also contains minerals such as potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.  

Culinary applications: 

Turmeric or haldi lends a hand in most Indian and Asian preparations. Available in a root or powdered form it gives a beautiful golden yellow color to the dish, a subtle aroma and flavor to make the dish delectable.  

Fresh turmeric, popular in Gujarati cooking, has the best flavour and health benefits. 

In India, it is also known as yellow ginger or kacha haldi. However, on its own haldi does not get easily absorbed in the bloodstream. Pairing it with black pepper or a fatty acid amps up the absorption. Turmeric, when combined with these, boosts the body’s ability to absorb the inflammation-fighting agent.  

Aren’t we lucky to have haldi as one of our main spice in all our dishes!

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