Turmeric is a cousin of ginger, a perennial plant that is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Like ginger it is the rhizomes (roots) that are used for cooking and as a medicinal herb. Turmeric is known for giving curry its bright yellow colour.
Having successfully grown ginger in my garden, I was very keen to try growing turmeric at home when I saw a plant at the garden centre. Although the plant is subtropical/tropical, it does grow in semi-shade and seems to do reasonably well in Auckland. I am growing mine in a large pot and was even rewarded this year with quite a spectacular green flower. The rhizomes are harvested in winter when the leaves die down.
Turmeric has flesh that is much more orange in colour than ginger, but with a much less biting flavour. The orange pigments are highly resinous and will stain any surface they permeate (including your hands). The active ingredient of turmeric is curcumin and many studies have shown that it has major benefits for your body and brain.
Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years both as a spices and in medicine. It is also receiving a lot of attention in modern western medicine too. Like ginger, it seems to be able to manage a range of inflammatory conditions in the body (especially chronic sports injuries and nagging joint pain). Unlike ginger, turmeric finds applications in a range of other situations from nerve damage to cystic fibrosis, liver disease, and cancer. It is a wide-ranging protector for human tissue and shows its value best when used consistently over a long period of time.
Here are a selection of different recipes you can make using turmeric. My favourite is the Winter Tonic recipe that is made with fresh grated turmeric. You can even use turmeric to colour natural cosmetic products (such as mango body butter) but be very careful as it can stain clothes.