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TURMERIC PLANT: A Complete Guide on How Turmeric Works

Turmeric plant(Curcuma longa) also known as Indian saffron has got to be the hottest commodity in the food market these days. People seem to be using and adding this golden spice to virtually everything. It is hard to miss with its vibrant orange-yellow colour and you are sure to find it sitting in most kitchen shelves, grocery stores and in market stalls.

Turmeric is popularly used as a food condiment on its own or in combination with other spices, but you will be surprised to find that it’s using extends beyond the culinary realm. It is now being added to smoothies, lattes, chocolate bars and in beverages like Turmeric coffee and tea.

The beauty industry has also taken turmeric under a cosmetic wing with the advent of beauty products like Turmeric soap, turmeric oil and the signature Turmeric face mask. Did we forget to mention that people also use Turmeric to dye hair?  

And it doesn’t even end there, turmeric is also winning in the health and wellness world as a cure and therapy for a variety of ailments. So you shouldn’t be shocked to stumble onto a  Turmeric vitamin supplement or turmeric tablets.

Also, You probably have been advised at one point or the other to try Turmeric tea as complementary medicine to get rid of one or two health issues like arthritis and intestinal disturbances. Either way, there is no denying the fact that Turmeric may actually have some robust health benefits.

But what makes Turmeric stand out? what is it about this plant that is so special to have everyone reaching for it? Where does it even come from? Perhaps questions like this might have crossed your mind without presenting definite answers. So why don’t you keep reading to get all the scoop on turmeric and have your curiosity satisfied!!

 

WHERE TURMERIC COMES FROM

You’ve seen Turmeric everywhere, you’ve even used it in your curries and other meals. But have you ever stopped to consider how this vibrant spice and food condiment came to be? Have you ever wondered where turmeric is grown? Or you probably assumed it was artificially manufactured in a laboratory?

Well, encyclopaedia tells us that  Indian and Indonesian soils are where turmeric grows the most. In essence, it has its origins linked to southern India, and it is majorly cultivated on both the mainland and islands of the Indian Ocean. It is also cultivated in Indonesia and Central America.

In ancient days, it was popular for its use as a spice and perfume. For the benefit of those who have never come across turmeric(must be very few), the Turmeric roots and rhizomes can be identified by its distinct hue of orange-yellow which has strong staining properties and tastes slightly bitter. It has an aroma that can be likened to that of pepper. It is this rhizome that is processed into powders and other derivatives to be used in various foods and for other purposes.

Although the rhizomes are the most important and used parts of the turmeric plants, the leaves aren’t left out. They are edible and can be used as food additives in powdered or in whole forms. They can also be used as an alternative to banana leaves in wrapping fish for grilling or roasting.

HOW TURMERIC IS GROWN

Typically, turmeric is grown in warm soil. They grow better in humid regions at temperatures above 29.8°C.setts of Tumeric (small rhizomes) are planted in ridges about 5-7 cm deep into the soil. The ridges are given a space of about 30-45 cm. A 15-30 cm gap is given between each row of plants.

The rhizomes are usually ripe for harvest after a span of 9-10 months from planting time. When a rhizome is mature for harvest, the stems dry up and start to fall or the lower leaves will take on a yellow or brown colour. And because turmeric is a herbaceous perennial, clumps of the plant are usually disintegrated after 3 or 4 years and fresh rhizomes are planted.

In areas where the weather is frosty or cold, turmeric can be grown indoors in soil-filled pots or planters and placed in very warm regions of about 86 to 95 degrees. In the absence of a warm location, you can use a germination chamber or a heating pad to encourage rapid sprouting. Well-drained soil or regular watering is essential for turmeric to grow and thrive maximally.

However, the rhizome seeds do not need a lot of water during the pre-sprouting stage. Filling them up with excess water can expose them to rotting. You can adjust the moisture requirement when they are actively sprouting.

Also, Since they grow within a span of 8 to 10 months, it might be necessary to adjust their planting location. You can bring them out to enjoy ample sun during summer or warmer season and bring them back in when the cold season sets in. It is important to note that when it sprouts indoors, it will require sufficient sunlight or light.

If you are looking to grow turmeric in your garden or home, you can start by sourcing viable Turmeric seeds rhizomes from reputable grocery stores. Ensure to buy the organic variety as the non-organic form may contain additional substances that can get in the way of its growth. Asian markets and organic food stores are your best bet for finding good and fresh tumeric seed rhizomes.

You can also purchase them from online stores. Wherever you decide to buy your seeds from, be sure to always check for the wholesomeness. Once you have successfully purchased or obtained your seeds, you can follow the following simple steps to grow some exotic turmerics:

  • Find or buy a large pot that can accommodate the height of the turmeric plant (they are known to grow beyond 1m). The pot should also be wide enough to allow the tubers to spread out without restriction. Putting all of these into consideration, a pot or planter of about 14-18 inches should do.
  • Fill the pot or planter with a good planting soil
  • Carefully cut the rhizomes into sections. Let each rhizome have a bud or two.
  • Place the rhizomes deep into the soil and cover with more soil
  • Give it some good watering and place in the warmest location you can find. You can use a heating mat or a germinating chamber to achieve the same results if you live in a cold region.
  • Care for the plant by providing it with regular water and light. You can apply root crop recommended fertilizers or compost tea to enrich the soil. Don’t expose the plants to excessive sunlight to avoid the risk of sunburn. When the plant outgrows it’s pot, transplant it to a larger pot. If there is a need to change location due to weather changes, act promptly.
  • After 8-10 months of loving, tender care, you can begin to look out for maturity signs. Brown, dry stems and leaves usually indicate that it’s time to meet your exotic turmerics.
  • Take out the plants and shake off excess soil. Separate the stems from the mass of rhizomes by cutting from an inch above.
  • Wash the rhizomes thoroughly and enjoy your delightful and scrumptious harvest
  • For storage, you can store the rhizomes in the fridge in an airtight container or bag for about six months or thereabout. For a longer shelf live, try keeping them in the freezer. You can also dehydrate the rhizomes and transform into some grounded golden spice (as explained below).

HOW TURMERIC POWDER IS MADE

The production of turmeric powder involves three major processes namely: boiling, dehydration and grinding. For industrial production, the rhizomes are boiled and then exposed to sunlight or heat for about five to seven days to dry.

The dehydrated rhizomes are then polished by rotating in a mounted drum or by hand rubbing. They are then milled into powder using grinding machines and are packaged for sale. Turmeric essential oil is also partly produced from this process with the inclusion of distillation. Distillation can give produce about 1.3 to 5.5 % of oil. These oils contain turmerone and ar-turmerone.

But who says, you can’t make turmeric powder from the comfort of your own home. All you need is sunlight or an oven, a good food processer or blender and of course a pot. Here is a simple homemade turmeric powder DIY recipe :

  • Wash the rhizomes thoroughly to get rid of dirt and soil grits
  • Boil the roots in water for about 45 minutes on low heat
  • Drain out the water and leave the rhizomes to cool for some minutes
  • Chop the rhizomes when completely cooled and spread out on trays or pans evenly. Avoid overcrowding the trays. Line the trays or pans with a kitchen towel to get rid of excess water
  • Keep under sunlight for several days to dry. You can occasionally keep them in a well-ventilated area to avoid over-drying. You can also use a dehydrator or an oven to achieve the same results. Once the rhizomes show signs of shrinkage and are looking dried up, you are good to go.
  • Grind into a powder using a food processor or blender and sift with a sieve (if required) to obtain a fine powder. Store in an airtight container and your turmeric powder is ready for use.

FUN FACT: you may be wondering why turmeric is boiled before drying, skipping the boiling part and just drying won’t hurt right?

Sorry to burst your bubble though, you need to boil them first or else you’d spend a lifetime trying to get them to dry perfectly. And as if that isn’t enough headache already, you may also end up with some germs in your powder. Not so healthy right? So to avoid these very unfortunate circumstances, you should boil the rhizomes to soften them for easier drying and to get rid of potential germs and pathogens.

 

TURMERIC  VS CURCUMIN

Are turmeric and curcumin the same thing? Turmeric and curcumin are often used interchangeably to mean the same thing, but this is just a misconception. To set the records straight, curcumin is one of the active compounds found in turmeric and cannot be referred to as the plant itself.

Curcumin is largely responsible for turmeric’s distinct colour and it also takes credit for most of the health benefits of turmeric.  Overall, turmeric consists of about 100 compounds and curcumin makes only about 5% of this composition.

HOW TURMERIC WORKS

Turmeric is lauded for its beneficial purposes especially in the health and wellness industry, which is largely attributed to its curcumin content. Curcumin is reported to have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

The positive side effects of curcumin have been extolled in treating and alleviating health conditions like arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and even depression. It has also been proposed to aid weight loss, encourage good skin health, and complement cancer treatment therapies.

In fact, a lot of people swear by its anti-inflammatory properties. Also, the age-long plant was reported to be used for medicinal purposes in ancient Indian and Chinese cultures. There is also some evidence that the plant may be good for animals such as dog and horses. For detailed research-based evidence on the medicinal benefits of turmeric and it’s side effects, kindly refer to this. (insert a link to the article on the health benefits of turmeric).

TURMERIC PLANT AND NUTRITION 

It will appear that Turmeric isn’t in high demand for nothing. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that one tablespoon of turmeric is packed full of 29 calories,6.31g of carbohydrates, 0.91g of protein, 0.3 g of sugar, 2.1g of fibre, and 0.31g of fat. Additionally, the same serving provides the body with some of its daily nutritional needs as follows ;

  • manganese (26%)
  • iron (16%)
  • Vitamin (3%)
  • Potassium (5%)

When it comes to turmeric nutrition, this bountiful evidence is a good reason to have that cup of turmeric yoghurt or smoothie. Without mincing words, turmeric has definitely lived up to its reputation as the magical plant, food ingredient and golden spice.

 

 

 

 

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