Turmeric is termed as the ‘saffron of poor’. Its name originates from its colour and character. It has its own unique smell and has a different type of taste among the products of fragrances. It enjoys top popularity among them just because of its characteristic features and therefore called as the gold of fragrances. The olden records of Chola kingdom praise its features and its expansive cultivation in its region in the lines of Pattinapaalai.
Turmeric is a common and household product that is associated with our culture and tradition, being used widely during festivities, celebrations, and also used as cosmetic, medicine and food item. It has great medicinal values as antiseptic, preventing us from diseases, a natural protector of diseases. Its medicinal features have been recorded in the treatises of herbal medicines in Japan and China. It is termed as ‘yellow ginger’ in China.
The people of Morocco prepare a soup called Harira, by mixing turmeric and saffron. A popular snack is prepared in Lebanon using turmeric called yellow cake. Turmeric plays a primary role in preparing a collection of spices called Chermoula, which is used to prepare non-vegetarian foods in the Middle East countries as a taste enhancer. Japanese have the habit of drinking tea mixed with turmeric.
It has other names such as Neethi, Peetam, Arisanam and Kanjani and it is generally a fragrant, it removes gastric disturbances, strengthens liver, and proves to be an antiseptic. Pure turmeric can be ground with water and it can be used while bathing, so that it removes bad odor and also cures issues of phlegm. Research findings prove that using turmeric in our food items is one of the major reasons of our previous generations not contracted with infectious diseases and other chronic diseases when compared to the medical records of the Western world.
During metabolism turmeric helps in assimilating grains and gram varieties that we consume daily. Using turmeric prior to making curries and stews helps bringing out the medicinal and fragrances of other food ingredients. The records of the 12th century prove that all the non-vegetarian food items were processed with the turmeric water.
The active ingredient called curcumin present in the turmeric is the primary reason for its medicinal values, particularly in preventing diseases of heart, cancer and diabetes. It helps in preventing arthritis by inhibiting the inflammatory factors present in the body. Its features are unique, starting from healing the injuries of the blood vessels, to enhancing the potential of other medicines and preventing the side effects of the consumed medicines. It cures indigestion problems by facilitating proper secretion of bile juices.
It controls the growth of oncogenes, prevents the transformation of normal cells into cancerous cells, minimizes the growth of cancer cells, and also stops the spread of cancer cells to other organs of the body, thereby helps in successfully managing and preventing the incidence of cancer.
In order to enhance the potential of turmeric in curing specific disease conditions, it is better to add pepper along with it while preparing food. The curcumin present in turmeric will join hands with the alkaloid called piperin present in pepper to fight against diseases. That is why to cure cough and cold, our grannies recommended drinking warm milk mixed with turmeric and pepper powders. Similarly, it is purported to fight against diseases by mixing turmeric with its curcumin content to work with the biochemical ingredients present in onion.
Cultivation of turmeric is expansive and there are ‘turmeric belts’ found in Kongu region, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Andhra. However, the kind of turmeric found in Alapuzha of Kerala contains more amount of curcumin and therefore it is considered to have more medicinal values than any other kind of turmeric.
Turmeric mixed with neem and Acalipha leaves can be used to remove unwanted hair in the body. It is a wonderful facial pack to mix turmeric with milk, green gram and ground sandalwood. Olden literature state that kids were bathed using turmeric water.
Calcium powder, wood powder, and flour are some of the adulterants found in turmeric. While turmeric was used as a natural dye in olden days, at present it is added with harmful synthetic chemicals such as lead chromate and metanyl yellow to add colour to the turmeric. Therefore, it is advised to buy the tubers of turmeric directly and dry and process them for household use.
It can be used as a first aid tool in presenting infection as it serves as an antiseptic. Tribal population applies turmeric powder at the place of bloodworm bite. Severe cold and nasal block and heaviness can be averted by inhaling the smoke of turmeric heated with fire. Turmeric is a green symbol of our culture!
Vindaloo Curry Masala
Mix together, four teaspoons of powdered cumin, two teaspoons of each turmeric, pepper, chili, coriander, mustard and pepper powders, small amount of ginger paste and salt. Keep the mix on a bowl and heat it with a half cup of vinegar, till it forms like butter. To a bowl, add gingelly oil and pour the mix to it and heat the content at low heat for ten minutes. Now the curry masala is ready that is strongly fragrant. It is spicier and strong and therefore can be used to prepare non-vegetarian items. This type of masal is popular in Andhra and Goa.
Pathoyo / Potoleo
It is not only the tubers of turmeric but its leaves are also used here. Dissolve rice flour in water and apply it on the turmeric leaves. Then keep palm jiggery paste, coconut scrapes, small amount of cardamom and cinnamon powder on it and cover it with turmeric leaves again. Then steam it for a while. Now Pathoyo is ready. The flagrance of turmeric leaves on the content is a special dish in the regions of Goa.
Grind 250 grams of the tender turmeric tuber in a fine paste and add the juice of four lemons along with salt to it. Mix the content thoroughly. This pickle can be made when there is excess cultivation of turmeric and it can be used to cure cold and cough, especially at the time of winter.
Scrape the tender turmeric tuber nicely. Fill water in a pot and add the scrapes to it. Boil it at low heat for ten minutes. In a separate pot add palm jaggery in water and dissolve its content. Then add the turmeric content into the second pot and boil it for a while. Then decant the water and there remains the candy to relish.
Along with the flour of green gram, tur dhal, Masur dhal and Bengal gram, turmeric, asafoetida and salt are added to prepare the snack called Vidalapaka, which was famous even many centuries ago.
(This article written in Tamil by Dr. V Vikramkumar for Aval Vikatan magazine dated 4/9/18 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)