DAVID HAMMOND PHOTO
Updated: March 7, 2014 1:23PM
“Turmeric is one of the world’s most ancient spices,” says Colleen Sen, Chicago author of Turmeric: The Wonder Spice, coming out this month (Agate Publishing).
“Evidence suggests turmeric has been used in India since 2,500 BCE, and 90 percent of turmeric still comes from India,” where Sen says “its color is considered auspicious.”
If you’ve ever enjoyed the food of India or the Middle East, you’ve probably had turmeric. It gives curry powder its yellow hue.
Aside from the color and flavor turmeric brings to a dish, it boasts a host of health advantages, including anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. “In India,” says Sen, “Johnson & Johnson sells bandages impregnated with turmeric to promote healing.”
According to Sen, clinical trials show turmeric to be “as effective as a standard anti-depressant in relieving depression,” and “it doesn’t take much to obtain potential health benefits: just half a teaspoon a day.”
Turmeric usually is sold as powder, though we found fresh turmeric ($2.99 a pound) at Mariano’s (333. E. Benton Place). The color was rich, almost orange. John Erd of the Spice House (1512 N. Wells) confirmed that “the deeper the color, the better the quality.”
When handling turmeric, be forewarned: it’s a powerful coloring agent. Turmeric-based sauce, splashed on an enamel stove top, left a stain that’s proving impossible to remove.
To foreground turmeric’s color and flavor, we developed a simple preparation.
1. In 2 tablespoons butter saute until tender 1 onion, chopped; 2 cloves garlic and 1tablespoon ginger, minced; 1 medium-sized knob turmeric, shredded.
2. Stir in ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, 3 pods cardamom, 2 cups rice.
3. Gradually add 3 cups chicken broth; when rice is cooked, add and warm 11/2 cups frozen peas. — David Hammond