Have you ever seen a fresh turmeric root? July 22, 2010Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, recipes.
Tags: Cooking with Kurma, fresh turmeric, Kurma, turmeric
Silence Dogood here. And actually, it’s a rhizome (think of its relative, ginger, or a bearded iris). My friend Huma recently brought me one from Patel’s in New York City, and it was the most amazing-looking thing, like a big, brilliant dayglo-orange caterpillar with tan rings along its back. Of course, I wanted to cook with it in the worst way, but instead, I controlled myself, rushed to the greenhouse, and planted it in our in-ground greenhouse bed where we also grow lemongrass, cardamom, and ginger.
I’ve been watering religiously, but there still is no sign of sprouts. But I’m not discouraged: It must have taken two months for the ginger to start sending up shoots. While watering this morning, however, I noticed another cool thing: A new shoot is pushing up from my cardamom, and its base is the most amazing brilliant scarlet. I could picture the intense orange of the turmeric rhizome with the scarlet of the cardamom shoot, the forest-green of the cardamom foliage, and the chartreuse of the lemongrass leaves: What a great color combination for a quilt!
But I digress. Turmeric (Curcuma longa) can apparently grow 6 feet tall and forms dense stands. It blooms for a couple of weeks in late summer/early fall. Like cardamom and culinary ginger, the plants aren’t the most decorative, but who cares when your goal is to grow a crop of rhizomes to harvest? You can also use the leaves in Indonesian dishes.
But what about using the fresh rhizome rather than the powder in dishes? I simply refuse to use powdered ginger in anything, since the dusty flavor can’t compare to fresh. Would fresh turmeric have an equally strong advantage over dried?
Heading to my good friend Google, I was directed to the website Cooking with Kurma (http://www.kurma.net/). Kurma is an Australian cooking celebrity, and apparently when pronounced with an Australian accent, “Kurma” is some sort of pun, but I’m afraid it’s lost on me. However, I do have three of Kurma’s excellent Indian vegetarian cookbooks in my cookbook collection, so when Google led with his website, I felt a considerable level of trust. Here’s what he said:
“It [turmeric] is a delight to use fresh, but must be handled with great care because as soon as the rhizomes are cut, they can seriously stain fingers, aprons, even cutting boards and knives. [And here I thought powdered turmeric was bad!—Silence] I usually grate them while wearing disposable kitchen gloves. I love to use fresh turmeric in long-cooking dishes like dals and moist vegetables to give the fresh product time to do its magic.
“I also fry fresh turmeric with grated fresh ginger in any recipes that ask for powdered turmeric, and I use it in double quantities. In other words, if a recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric, I will use 1 teaspoon of the fresh. Used fresh, its slightly bitter and pungent flavour is unsurpassable.”
Thanks, Kurma. Now I’m even more inspired!
What about you? Ready to grow a big pot of turmeric on your deck? Even though I’d never seen a fresh turmeric rhizome until Huma brought mine here, you don’t have to head to New York City to find one. Reading other growers’ comments, some found theirs in Asian markets, at Whole Foods, even on Amazon. So if you’re feeling adventurous, Google “fresh turmeric sources” and see what you find. Then go for it! When you’re ready to harvest, just take what you need and replant the rest, and you should have fresh turmeric forever.
‘Til next time,