Curcurma domestica Valeton
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) // or // or // is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to southwest India. It needs temperatures between 20 and 30 °C (68 and 86 °F) and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes and propagated from some of those rhizomes in the following season.
When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for about 30–45 minutes then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in Bangladeshi cuisine, Indian cuisine, Pakistani cuisine and curries, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. One active ingredient is curcumin, which has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.
India, a significant producer of turmeric, has regional names based on language and country.
- 1 History and etymology
- 2 Pronunciation
- 3 Botanical description
- 4 Biochemical composition
- 5 Uses
- 6 Possibility of lead contamination
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
History and etymology
There have been many theories and much speculation about the origin of the name. Some have thought that the name appears to derive from Middle English/early modern English as turmeryte or tarmaret having uncertain origin. There was speculation that it may be of Latin origin, terra merita (merited earth). However, William Guthrie has examined a large amount of historical evidence and concludes "that the original form of the word was, or is very close to, "turmeric", a spice traded to the west for centuries... a word that still exists... and remains whole in a few places, including in Afghanistan.
Turmeric can be pronounced with or without the initial "r". Many people pronounce it as (// ew or // oo rather than // oor), as if it were spelled "Tu-mer-ic". This is the result of a dissimilation effect whereby having two "r"s close to each other causes one to change for ease of pronunciation, as is the case with the word February.
Turmeric is a perennial herbaceous plant that reaches up to 1 m tall. Highly branched, yellow to orange, cylindrical, aromatic rhizomes are found. The leaves are alternate and arranged in two rows. They are divided into leaf sheath, petiole, and leaf blade. From the leaf sheaths, a false stem is formed. The petiole is 50 to 115 cm long. The simple leaf blades are usually 76 to 115 cm long and rarely up to 230 cm. They have a width of 38 to 45 cm and are oblong to elliptic narrowing at the tip.
Inflorescence, flower, and fruit
In China, the flowering time is usually in August. Terminally on the false stem is a 12- to 20-cm-long inflorescence stem containing many flowers. The bracts are light green and ovate to oblong with a blunt upper end with a length of 3 to 5 cm.
At the top of the inflorescence, stem bracts are present on which no flowers occur; these are white to green and sometimes tinged reddish-purple and the upper ends are tapered.
The hermaphrodite flowers are zygomorphic and threefold. The three 0.8- to 1.2-cm-long sepals are fused, white, have fluffy hairs and the three calyx teeth are unequal. The three bright-yellow petals are fused into a corolla tube up to 3 cm long. The three corolla lobes have a length of 1.0 to 1.5 cm, and are triangular with soft-spiny upper ends. While the average corolla lobe is larger than the two lateral, only the median stamen of the inner circle is fertile. The dust bag is spurred at its base. All other stamens are converted to staminodes. The outer staminodes are shorter than the labellum. The labellum is yellowish, with a yellow ribbon in its center and it is obovate, with a length from 1.2 to 2.0 cm. Three carpels are under a constant, trilobed ovary adherent, which is sparsely hairy. The fruit capsule opens with three compartments.
The most important chemical components of turmeric are a group of compounds called curcuminoids, which include curcumin (diferuloylmethane), demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin. The best-studied compound is curcumin, which constitutes 3.14% (on average) of powdered turmeric. In addition, other important volatile oils include turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberene. Some general constituents are sugars, proteins, and resins.
Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It is one of the key ingredients in many Asian dishes. Indian traditional medicine, called Siddha, has recommended turmeric for medicine. Its use as a coloring agent is not of primary value in South Asian cuisine.
Turmeric is mostly used in savory dishes, but is used in some sweet dishes, such as the cake sfouf. In India, turmeric plant leaf is used to prepare special sweet dishes, patoleo, by layering rice flour and coconut-jaggery mixture on the leaf, then closing and steaming it in a special copper steamer (goa).
In recipes outside South Asia, turmeric is sometimes used as an agent to impart a rich, custard-like yellow color. It is used in canned beverages, baked products, dairy products, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cakes, orange juice, biscuits, popcorn color, cereals, sauces, gelatins, etc. It is a significant ingredient in most commercial curry powders.
Most turmeric is used in the form of rhizome powder; in some regions (especially in Maharashtra, Goa, Konkan and Kanara), turmeric leaves are used to wrap and cook food. Turmeric leaves are mainly used in this way in areas where turmeric is grown locally, since the leaves used are freshly picked. Turmeric leaves impart a distinctive flavor.
Although typically used in its dried, powdered form, turmeric is also used fresh, like ginger. It has numerous uses in Far Eastern recipes, such as pickle that contains large chunks of soft turmeric, made from fresh turmeric.
Turmeric is widely used as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. Many Persian dishes use turmeric as a starter ingredient. Almost all Iranian khoresh dishes are started using onions caramelized in oil and turmeric, followed by other ingredients.
In India and Nepal, turmeric is widely grown and extensively used in many vegetable and meat dishes for its color, and is also used for its supposed value in traditional medicine.
In South Africa, turmeric is used to give boiled white rice a golden colour.
In Vietnamese cuisine, turmeric powder is used to color and enhance the flavors of certain dishes, such as bánh xèo, bánh khọt, and mi quang. The powder is also used in many other Vietnamese stir-fried and soup dishes.
In Thailand, fresh turmeric rhizomes are widely used in many dishes, in particular in the southern Thai cuisine, such as the yellow curry and turmeric soup.
Folk medicine and traditional uses
In India, turmeric has been used as a remedy for stomach and liver ailments, as well as topically to heal sores, basically for its supposed antimicrobial property. In the Siddh system (since around 1900 BCE), turmeric was a medicine for a range of diseases and conditions, including those of the skin, pulmonary, and gastrointestinal systems, aches, pains, wounds, sprains, and liver disorders. A fresh juice is commonly used in many skin conditions, including eczema, chicken pox, shingles, allergy, and scabies.
The active compound curcumin is believed to have a wide range of biological effects including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antibacterial, and antiviral activities, which indicate potential in clinical medicine.
Preliminary medical research
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, "there is little reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted."
Although trials are going on for the use of turmeric to treat cancer, doses needed for any effect are difficult to establish in humans.
Turmeric is under study in several human diseases, including kidney and cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, cancer, irritable bowel disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and other clinical disorders.
Turmeric makes a poor fabric dye, as it is not very light fast, but is commonly used in Indian and Bangladeshi clothing, such as saris and Buddhist monks's robes. Turmeric (coded as E100 when used as a food additive) is used to protect food products from sunlight. The oleoresin is used for oil-containing products. A curcumin and polysorbate solution or curcumin powder dissolved in alcohol is used for water-containing products. Over-coloring, such as in pickles, relishes, and mustard, is sometimes used to compensate for fading.
In combination with annatto (E160b), turmeric has been used to color cheeses, yogurt, dry mixes, salad dressings, winter butter and margarine. Turmeric is also used to give a yellow color to some prepared mustards, canned chicken broths, and other foods (often as a much cheaper replacement for saffron).
Ceremonial uses and myths
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (March 2015)|
Turmeric is considered auspicious and holy in India and has been used in various Hindu ceremonies for millennia. It remains popular in India for wedding and religious ceremonies.
Turmeric has played an important role in Hindu spiritualism. The robes of the Hindu monks were traditionally colored with a yellow dye made of turmeric. Because of its yellow-orange coloring, turmeric was associated with the sun or the Thirumal in the mythology of ancient Tamil religion. Yellow is the color of the solar plexus chakra which in traditional Tamil Siddha medicine is an energy center. Orange is the color of the sacral chakra.
The plant is used in Poosai (Tamil)|poosai to represent a form of the Tamil Goddess Kottravai. In Eastern India, the plant is used as one of the nine components of navapatrika along with young plantain or banana plant, taro leaves, barley (jayanti), wood apple (bilva), pomegranate (darimba), asoka, manaka, or manakochu and rice paddy. The Navaptrika worship is an important part of Durga festival rituals.
It is used in poosai to make a form of Ganesha. Yaanaimugathaan, the remover of obstacles, is invoked at the beginning of almost any ceremony and a form of Yaanaimugathaan for this purpose is made by mixing turmeric with water and forming it into a cone-like shape.
Haldi ceremony (called Gaye holud in Bengal) (literally "yellow on the body") is a ceremony observed during Hindu wedding celebrations in many parts of India including Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The 'ceremony takes place one or two days before the religious and legal Bengali wedding ceremonies. The turmeric paste is applied by friends to the bodies of the couple. This is said to soften the skin, but also colors them with the distinctive yellow hue that gives its name to this ceremony. It may be a joint event for the bride and groom's families, or it may consist of separate events for the bride's family and the groom's family.
During the Tamil festival Pongal, a whole turmeric plant with fresh rhizomes is offered as a thanksgiving offering to Suryan, the sun god. Also, the fresh plant sometimes is tied around the sacred Pongal pot in which an offering of pongal is prepared.
In Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, as a part of the Tamil/Telugu marriage ritual, dried turmeric tuber tied with string is used to create a Thali necklace, the equivalent of marriage rings in western cultures. In western and coastal India, during weddings of the Marathi and Konkani people, Kannada Brahmins turmeric tubers are tied with strings by the couple to their wrists during a ceremony called Kankanabandhana.
Possibility of lead contamination
As turmeric and other spices are commonly sold by weight, the potential exists in modern times for powders of toxic, cheaper agents with a similar color to be added, such as lead(II,IV) oxide, giving turmeric an orange-red color instead of its native gold-yellow.
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- Turmeric, from the U.S. National Institutes of Health
- Turmeric List of Chemicals (Dr. Duke's)
- Plant Cultures: review of botany, history and uses
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