I was so excited when I found fresh Turmeric at my local supermarket last week  I just could not resist buying it.

Turmeric comes from a gnarled root (rhizome to be botanically correct!) of the ginger family. Two years ago I bought a root that started sprouting and I have had a few leaves sprout every year, but have not had the courage to harvest any yet. The plants die down in winter and need high temperatures and plenty of water to flourish. After all they flourish in the humid and hot regions of their native South East Asia and India. We have certainly had the heat and my plant gets the odd splash of grey sink water, so it is not flourishing!

We usually buy Turmeric in a powder form. The deep yellow is an essential colouring component to curries and pickles. The flavour is earthy and mild of mustard. If used in excess it can be bitter.

Recently the health benefits of dried and fresh turmeric have brought it into fashion in our kitchens. As I don’t drink cows milk I made a delicious warm spiced latte using almond and coconut milk last winter. Chefs are using it in salad dressings, savoury butters, in baking and soups.

They say it’s healthy!

Apparently the health benefits have not been medically proven but it is has been used in Chinese and Indian medicine for millennia. Turmeric contains a yellow coloured chemical called curumin, which is responsible for its health attributes. It is said to be a powerful anti oxidant and have anti-inflammatory properties. Other cures range from preventing cancer, Alzheimer’s and weight loss, so what the hell….. just enjoy it! You cannot overdose as you need at least 5ml (a teaspoonful) per day for it to be effective! Apparently it is available in capsule form for those who want the medicinal benefits.

For me, it’s the rich golden colour that I just love.

Using fresh turmeric requires some care as the yellow dye is pretty potent. Yes, it has been used to dye fabrics and carpets in Asia for centuries.

Here are some watch points

To avoid yellow stains on your hands, use a plastic bag or gloves to prepare

  • Either use gloves or a plastic bag to protect your hands
  • Do not use plastic chopping boards or containers as they stain easier
  • Rather use a metal stick blender in a glass bowl as it will stain your blender bowl
  • Do not use a wooden spoon, use metal or a black Tephlon spoon if you have one
  • Pale enamel saucepans will be stained, so use stainless steel

If you buy Turmeric root, make a turmeric paste to use at a later date.

5cm turmeric root, peeled and grated

5cm ginger root, peeled and grated

50ml canola or coconut oil

100ml water

Additional 200ml water if required

Combine the grated roots, oil and 100ml water. Bring to the boil and stir continually. If too much water evapourates, add more to retain a paste-like consistency. Boil f or at least 2 minutes.

Place paste in a jar in the fridge or freezer and use as required.

When we were Thailand we had the most memorable Chicken curry with mango, so when I started peeling the fresh turmeric my taste memories revived! As usual I used the fresh turmeric and other fresh spices to make a delicious Mango Chicken Curry (recipe here).  The colour is magnificent and the flavours sublime. Mark maintains its the best curry he has ever eaten!

As I still have plenty of fresh turmeric I used exactly the same recipe but used seafood instead of chicken. This time I added cubed white fish, a few prawns, mussels and calamari tubes to the simmering sauce, just for about 5 minutes, until the seafood was cooked! I also omitted the mango. It was delicious!