Are you consuming pure turmeric powder or Lead Chromate & methyl yellow

Turmeric plant (curcuma longa) has been cultivated in most part of India and other continents since time immoral.

Cooking with turmeric powder is just a new phenomenon; almost 20 years back in Kerala people would crush it with a heavy duty mortar and pestle, which would be grinded with curry paste whenever required (You can soak them in water overnight and use next day). Industrialization gives us the modern day powdered turmeric form used as food color and other uses. However traditionally in Kerala also it was powdered only during rare occasions like Theyyam (Malabar folk festival) or for temple use; which would be used immediately and not stored. Most people would dry turmeric root and store for later use. Powdering turmeric loses it nutrition, just like black pepper. When you crush or grind natural fresh spices together, the difference is noticeable.

Turmeric after south western rains
Turmeric after south western rains

It has been documented that when curcumin is given as medication our liver tires to expel it immediately by solving it with water. However when curcumin mixed with piperine(Black pepper) it makes the bioavailability of curcumin multi folds which get processed in the body slowly.

Turmeric was never considered a spice; it was widely used for dyeing and for medicinal uses.

How to select the Perfect Turmeric?

There are many varieties of turmeric in India. Most turmeric available today has been altered for higher yield. Bigger the size and color, better the returns. Most people use turmeric for its bright and cheap color.

Did you know that outside of dried turmeric root actually looks colorless like any other tree root. Commercial cultivators and middleman after boiling the turmeric using mechanical polishing peel the outer skin and then add color or turmeric powder to make it appealing. Turmeric fingers seen in television commercials are actually colored. Commercially available pure turmeric powder should be consumed with extreme discretion.

Modern day turmeric (I mean starch powder like tapioca) is adulterated with Lead Chromate, Methyl yellow and other yellow dyes which are highly carcinogenic.

In Kerala all the turmeric is grown and harvested within a year. It’s planted by end of April and harvested mostly by end of January through February. A year old crop is ideal in my opinion since it grows through the natural cycle just like in the forests.

Why are turmeric seed fingers stored in rice husk?

Turmeric fingers for seeds are traditionally kept in rice husk. Rice husk keeps the fingers separated as sprouts start appearing by March. (Planetary forces). It is a mysterious combination. If seeds are kept elsewhere it gets spoiled quickly; lose weight and dry out. Planting improperly stored seeds will also affect it’s yields.

Keep changing the cultivating area for turmeric as the soil is depleted of it’s nutrients within one harvest cycle.

  1. Traditionally, after creating beds just ash and husk was added along with the seed fingers. No manure was ever used. Soil was in great shape until few years back.
  2. With first rain the shoots start appearing. Then with the sprouting of each new leaf fresh wild leaves would be added as mulch which would then be covered with a little soil.
  3. Expect for some de-weeding, very little care needs to be given. You can add a little groundnut cake (for initial growth boost) or keep using jeevamrut to boost and protect the crop.

Turmeric crops are very resilient and there were hardly any known cases of failed harvests in olden days. For us at least it is still the same.

Turmeric on raised bed with mulch
Turmeric on raised bed with mulch

Modern day cultivation has lots of issues because of the earlier mentioned gene alteration and excessive use of fertilizers and chemicals. This also increases the input cost and ultimately increases the raw green turmeric price.

Dried turmeric leaves - Ready for harvest
Dried turmeric leaves – Ready for harvest
  1. Once harvested you need to separate the fingers and turmeric mother rhizomes. This needs to be done because the boiling time for each is different.
  2. We boil turmeric for a good 12 hours on high flame in large vessel. Again add some husk and a specific type of leaf is added (locally known as paanha ila, which is also used to drive away honey bees).
  3. This process increases the shelf life of turmeric and it also enhances it’s color. Without this leaf, turmeric and its powder turn reddish in appearance after few months.

Purchase un-certified organic turmeric

This year’s harvest will be ready soon. I will have limited stock. Please let me know if anyone is interested in procuring some. Since it’s harvested only for home use the quantity is limited.

5 Replies to “Are you consuming pure turmeric powder or Lead Chromate & methyl yellow”

  1. Hi, I am based in Chennai Tamil Nadu. Can you provide me info to n traditional varieties available here.

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