Have you ever tried to get some sort of kitchen garden going in a balcony on the 2ndfloor or in half a dozen pots in an apology to a backyard? I have. I’m guilty of being an irregular gardener however, and don’t really lavish as much attention on my plants as they deserve.
In fact, I tend to garden as when the mood takes me and have to confess that I’m guilty of often forgetting to even water my plants! I used to be a very avid gardener once upon a time though you would be forgiven for finding that difficult to believe today. Despite that, in most cases, my plants have been very forgiving and have borne fruit (and leaves), thriving on very little love.
A lot of people would think me a bit silly to get excited about a small bunch of herbs, a dozen chillies or a handful of vegetables that are barely enough in quantity to cobble together a dish that will just about serve two. Every time I get bitten by the urge to plant something, my husband tends to remark he’s not sure why I’m spending time and effort to grow a handful of something that will not reach everyone at the table. Then he goes out and waters the plants that I forgot to!
The thrill I get when I check my few pots and find that my plants haven’t given up on me and continue to flourish despite me, is indescribable. So maybe you can imagine what I felt like when I discovered some fresh turmeric positively blooming with health in my pots, more so because I never actually planted them.
I had bought some turmeric roots from my local market and for some reason I couldn’t use them while they were still tender. Not wanting to throw them out, I just dropped them in a pot filled with soil and forgot all about them. Sometime later, I found that they had put out roots and slowly started putting out leaves as well. So I decided to replant them in a couple of bigger pots and pulled them out to find they had quite large rhizomes in the soil.
I broke off the turmeric, and re-potted the plants which are flourishing quite well now. Turmeric has long had a very special place in the Indian home and it is not just in cooking, even though a whole lot of Indian dishes just wouldn’t be what they are without turmeric.
Turmeric is harvested from rhizomes of the plant, boiled for five to ten minutes and dried (and used this way) or ground into the bright yellow turmeric powder.
Turmeric is a bit of a “wonder” spice because it has so many uses. Turmeric (usually the dried kind) is also considered very auspicious in religious practices and traditions in my community. Women are always advised to carry a piece of turmeric on their person when visiting a home where death has just occurred because it is believed to give one some immunity against disease and death.It is also offered as part of “vetthalappaku/ thamboolam”, which is an offering given during auspicious rituals or to married women when they are leaving after a visit.
Turmeric has antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties and even stops blood flow from small wounds. A home remedy that is common in India, when the kitchen knife slips and one cuts oneself. Apply a pinch of turmeric powder on the wound and press it down. Ten minutes and the blood flow will stop and the wound will heal quite well with minimal scarring.
In fact I remember rom my childhood days, the “Velichappadu” (a ritualistic possession/ trance-like state of the local oracle involving his slashing his forehead with a knife) with blood flowing down his face from his slashed forehead being treated with handfuls of turmeric powder on his wounds and the blood drying up with hardly any scars in evidence.
Turmeric is an excellent remedy for a sore throat. I can remember any number of instances of being given a warm bedtime drink of milk flavoured with a teaspoon of turmeric.
Fresh turmeric mixed with sandalwood is used against acne and skin rashes, and with a bit of lemon juice reduces pigmentation on the skin. Turmeric powder mixed with chickpea flour and yogurt as a pack not only is a good body scrub that is refreshing but also lightens tanned skin. These are just a few of its numerous qualities.
Fresh turmeric has a distinct flavour, very pleasing though delicate. It can also leave a long lasting yellow stain on everything it touches! The tender turmeric rhizomes can be used directly (in small quantities) to flavour salads, to colour pulav/ pilafs, grated into dals/ lentil curries and soups, or as Indian style pickles.
This recipe is my own, and I made it in the style we normally use with tender ginger, or mango- ginger (a ginger that tastes and smells like raw mango). If you’re used to eating South Indian style Yogurt Rice (commonly referred to as Curd Rice), then this pickle is something that adds to that experience.