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Turmeric (Curcuma longa or ka-min in Thai) is a member of the ginger family and is related to galangal. Much smaller then ginger, turmeric is a rhizome with small finger-like root with brown skin and very bright yellow flesh that can stain (so be careful). Native to India, it is used in both Indian and Southeast Asian cooking where the fresh root is preferred. In Thailand it is an essential ingredient in curry pastes, adding color and taste. Southern Thais are especially keen for turmeric and often add it to fish dishes.
In India, turmeric is boiled, dried and ground to a powder and used widely in curries. Because yellow is considered to be a sacred color in Asia, turmeric is often used to color ceremonial rice dishes. In Thailand it was formerly used as a dye to color the robes of monks.
Turmeric is also appreciated for its medicinal qualities, including blocking growth of cancer cells. In Thailand it is recognized as a digestive stimulant and is said to lower blood sugar and is therefore used for diabetes and hypoglycemia. Fresh turmeric juice can also be used as a remedy for coughs, arthritis, chronic back pain, and painful or blocked menstruation. It can also relieve itching and swelling, has a slight antiseptic effect and is useful as an anti-inflammatory for bruises and sprains. (Source: p.154, A Thai Herbal, by C. Pierce Salguero, © 2003 Silkworm Books, Thailand).
To store fresh turmeric, wipe dry, wrap with a paper towel and store in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. Properly stored, turmeric roots can be kept up to one month or even longer.
See Thai recipes using fresh turmeric root: Traditional Thai Red Curry and Pork Satay.
Also see turmeric powder.PLEASE READ PERISHABLE TERMS OF SHIPPING BEFORE ORDERING.
To grow your own turmeric, bury broken pieces of the root about a half-inch deep in a pot filled with potting soil. Keep in the dark, and be sure to keep the soil moist and the pot covered with plastic wrap. Once sprouted keep indoors during the winter months. The plant will have large broad leaves like hostas and white flowers like hyacinths.
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