I have a little secret. I add a pinch of turmeric to soups and stews and pots of almost anything in which the flavor won’t clash. Two nights ago, I sat down with a good book and a bowl of popcorn precisely as I like it: drizzled with butter and sprinkled with a little salt, sautéed garlic, shredded cheese (“Montzarella” from Montana’s Lifeline Farm), Kashmiri chile and turmeric. (I know, it’s indulgent.)
Powdered turmeric works, but nothing beats the robust aroma and flamboyant color of the fresh root. Slice it open, and you will see. This is what gives many Asian curries their distinction. The above photo was taken at a Bangkok market, but fresh turmeric root also is available at Asian markets and food co-ops throughout the West.
We’ve known for ages the anti-inflammatory and brain-boosting benefits of turmeric. For centuries, Ayurvedic medicine has turned to curcumin (the key component in turmeric) to mend the body in many ways. Recent research has found the spice helpful in combating everything from cancers to bowel diseases, from Alzheimer’s to arthritis. Turmeric made my list of good foods when I wrote last year about the health benefits of an Asian diet. (The article remains online, though the list does not. It includes basil, chile, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coconut, galangal, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mint, onion, papaya, tea and turmeric.)
Earlier this year, we heard that a weekly dose of curry could save us from dementia. Now, the BBC reports on lab tests showing curcumin to be effective in killing esophageal cancer cells. The disease kills more than 14,000 people each year in the United States alone.
So go ahead, paint your plate yellow. It’s good for the eyes—and the rest of you!