BY JENNIFER BABISAK
VARIETY IS the spice of life, asserted poet
William Cowper. Though modern times
present no shortage of variety in the
choices of food and entertainment set
before us, ancient cultures might urge us to
consider the “spice of life” in a more literal
sense and bestow that title on turmeric.
The pungent spice imparts a slightly bitter
complexity to savoury dishes, rounding
out the spicier notes of ginger and pepper
that often accompany it.
Turmeric comes from the root of the
Curcuma longa plant. A relative of ginger,
the plant grows in tropical regions of Asia,
with India producing the world’s largest
quantities. The plant’s roots are dug up,
dried and powdered into the yellow spice.
Turmeric has been revered in Indian
culture—as a medicinal aid, culinary spice,
beauty remedy and fabric dye—for at least
6,000 years. Indians wore the root as an
ornamental talisman and Buddhist monks
used turmeric’s natural yellow properties
to dye their robes. Brides were covered in
turmeric paste before their wedding, and
on the wedding day a groom tied a turmeric-
dyed string around his bride’s neck to indi-
cate her married status.
Other cultures have also exhibited
long-held appreciation of turmeric’s power.
Chinese medicine has integrated the spice
into remedies for a thousand years, and
traditional Brazilian medicine utilizes turmeric as an anti-venom to counter the poison of pit vipers. Marco Polo discovered the
spice for Europe 700 years ago and referred
to it as Indian saffron, though its medicinal
properties were not well understood in the
West until the late 20th century.
The list of the anti-inflammatory
spice’s beneficial properties stretches
nearly as long as the number of scientific
studies that have tested its merits; turmeric
is reported to have beneficial effects on the
treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative
colitis and renal conditions, among others.
Those interested in using turmeric as
a nutritional supplement can find the herb
fresh at markets, in traditional powdered
form, and in tablets and liquid extracts.
Turmeric can increase the effects of blood
thinners, so anyone taking blood-thinning
medication should avoid the spice.
Costco member and chef Jasjit Kaur
uses turmeric for everything from wound
care to an exfoliating face mask to a bed-
time drink. In her Indian cooking classes,
she teaches participants how to incorpo-
rate the golden spice into their daily meals,
teaching them to concoct savoury dishes
like butter chicken and turmeric curry.
Turmeric is one of the most well-known
and commonly used spices in the world,
An ancient spice goes modern
FOR YOUR TABLE
HALDI DHOODH (TURMERIC MILK)
250 mL ( 1 cup) regular or nut milk of choice
3 mL (¾ teaspoon) powdered turmeric, or 2 to
2. 5 cm (½ to 1 inch) piece fresh turmeric
5 mL ( 1 teaspoon) honey
2 to 3 green cardamom pods, crushed
(use both pods and seeds)
Mix together all the ingredients in a pot and
bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes or so and
switch off the flame. Serve hot. Makes 1 serving.
Recipe courtesy of Jasjit Kaur.
and it serves as a significant ingredient in
most curry powders. Whether used in traditional curries, chicken salad or mac and
cheese, turmeric suits dishes of diverse cultures and tastes. The spice is also used to
make a soothing bedtime drink called
“There’s a tradition I carried on with
my son,” Kaur says. “Every day before bed it
was a ritual for us. I boil milk with turmeric,
a big pinch of honey and green cardamom.
It keeps away colds and coughs, helps diges-
tion and gives me a good night’s sleep.”
So whether you’re looking to enliven
your cooking with a dash of Far East fla-
vour or supplement with a potent anti-
inflammatory, turmeric may be the spice
of life that’s been missing from your diet.
“If you miss one ingredient, don’t make it
turmeric,” Kaur says. “But if you miss one
other ingredient, just add love.” C
Jennifer Babisak is a Texas-based writer.
Kirkland Signature™ Ground Turmeric
is available in warehouses. Turmeric
supplements are available in warehouses
and on Costco.ca.
by HAMPTON FORGE
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