Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Turmeric - Sprinkle super spice into your life.

In recent years, Western scientists are raving about the health benefits of the spice turmeric. Scientific research indicates that turmeric is known to cure various elements that can go wrong with the human body such as ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, cystic fibrosis and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Long before turmeric hit the spotlight for the west, over the centuries, turmeric has had a place of honor not only in India’s traditional Ayurvedic medicine but also in Indian households. No religious rituals and auspicious ceremonies are complete without the use of turmeric. In the Hindu wedding ceremony, bride and groom pour turmeric tinted rice over each other’s heads, which signifies prosperity and fertility.

As a spice, turmeric has had a long history as anti-inflammatory in India’s traditional Ayurvedic medicine. In India, turmeric is widely used as an antiseptic agent. Turmeric, which is also known as the India’s saffron or the poor man’s saffron in India is a perennial shrub. Known the scientific name, curcuma longa, it is grown all over the Southern states of India and is a member of the ginger family. As a spice, it has a slightly pungent and bitter taste. It does not change the taste of the food tremendously other than the fact that whatever food you add it to turns a golden yellow color. In our village, my mother always washed meat or fish with turmeric, because it protects the meat from spoilage (oxidation degradation) and protects its nutritive values because it contains a potent antioxidant called curcumin. If it can protect a piece of meat, it can also protect our body tissue.

Turmeric is also known as a cleansing spice, which explains why women in Indian villages cleanse their bodies by applying the turmeric paste before washing, especially after their menstrual cycle.

Alzheimer’s disease has an important connection with inflammation – turmeric is known to reduce that inflammation. Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the buildup of amyloid protein ``plaques'' within the brain. In studies done on rats, curcumin ``not only reduces the amyloid, but also reduces the (brain's) response to the amyloid,'' according to researcher Dr. Sally Frautschy of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Almost every curry in Indian cuisine uses a moderate amount of the spice turmeric, which may help explain why rates of Alzheimer's disease are much lower among the elderly individuals living in villages in India compared to their Western peers.
Since Alzeimer’s has no cure, we should focus our efforts on prevention. In general, following an anti-inflammatory diet which means eating food rich in antioxidants such as turmeric and pomegranates is the best thing to do for our body’s immune system. Turmeric has been proven to have anti-cancer effects in mice and animals. Traditionally, in India turmeric is used as a digestive-aid. The next time you have digestive problems, you may want to consider the spice turmeric.

Overall, it can bring an honored healing power when you add the spice turmeric to your life.

The following recipe is not only utterly delicious but it has all the elements of antioxidants: turmeric, ginger, pomegranates, and lime juice.

Lemon Rice

Lemon rice is not made with lemons, but with limes. It is a South Indian recipe, where only limes are available. Limes are tarter in flavor than lemons. The tart flavor of limes balances the spicy chilies and ginger in this recipe. Mustard seeds add crunchiness and pungency to the dish. It is not only simple to make, but also looks colorful, grand, festive and good enough to serve at banquets. Lemon rice gets its bright and vibrant lemon color from turmeric, a spice widely used in Indian cooking.
Lemon rice is usually served at room temperature. Lime juice, ginger, chilies, and turmeric preserve this rice and keep it from spoiling. It can be left at room temperature for a day, loosely covered. When I was growing up, it was a popular choice for kid’s school lunches, picnics and train journeys.

I like to garnish lemon rice with pomegranate seeds, which shimmer like fine jewels against the vibrant yellow colored bed of rice.

4 cups cooked plain white rice
cup vegetable oil
teaspoon asafoetida
2 - 3 dried red chilies such as chile de arbol
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons chena dal
1 tablespoon white urad dal
½ cup raw cashew nuts
1-inch piece ginger, minced
1 - 3 minced fresh green chilies, such as serrano
20 fresh or dry curry leaves
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 ½ teaspoons salt
cup + 2 tablespoons lime juice

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add asafoetida and red chilies. When red chilies are turning one shade darker, add mustard seeds and cover with the lid until spluttering subsides. Uncover and add white urad dal and chena dal. When white urad dal is turning golden brown, stir in cashews. As soon as cashew nuts turn one shade darker, add curry leaves. As curry leaves crisp up, add ginger, chilies, turmeric, and salt. Fry for one minute, and turn off the heat. Let it cool for 3 minutes, add lime juice. Now add lime juice mixture to cooked rice, and mix thoroughly. You must let the rice rest for at least ½ an hour for flavors to mingle before serving.
Cook’s Note: 1. If you taste the rice as soon as you make it, it tastes very lemony. But after it sits for ½ an hour, the lime juice absorbs into the rice and the flavors mingle. Then you can adjust the seasoning if necessary.
2. Red chilies are added for flavor. They are not meant to be eaten.

Please check out Foodie Friday for more recipes.


  1. Dear Komali, Thank you for being a fabulous cook and mantaining people very well inform with your articules about the goodness of the Indian species.
    I really enjoy your book "Entertaining from an ethnic Indian Kitchen" I love it.
    Maria Peirano

  2. This looks great. I don't have a lot of that available locally. But I did have a rice dish I tried from BHG and I posted it to my recipe blog--it was the first time I tried pomegranate in the rice. This recipe had lemon skin slivers in it and cashews.

  3. I don't know that I could find these ingredients, but I really enjoyed the information. I am never quite sure what to do with turmeric. The pomegranate seeds look lovely!

  4. Looks great and I use turmeric in my quinoa recipes also.

  5. Susan,
    You can find all these ingredients except urad dal and chana dal in any supermarket. You can find these dals in Indian super market. If you can't find dals, leave them out and try the recipe anyway. You are going to love it.