Turmeric Tales

Tiny turmeric harvest at home. Picture by Anu Anniah

Turmeric is a staple spice in South Indian cooking. Very few dishes do not include a pinch of turmeric in the tempering. Maybe with the exception of curd rice! We love our turmeric!

Turmeric and ginger are cousins. Both are roots. Both are spices. Ginger has a zingy edge due to its strong flavor. But turmeric is not one to be left behind. It makes up with its amazing color. Such a rich yellow! Lends so much to all the dishes that it graces with merely a pinch!

A Gold Mine…all Mine!

Recently, we undertook a major repotting exercise in our tiny balcony garden.

We had a few pots of turmeric plants scattered about. The plant is a lush green and has such lovely broad leaves.

Picture by Anu Anniah

My mom had introduced turmeric into the garden over 4 years ago, when she was healthy and still around. She has been gone over 3 years now, but what a legacy she left behind! Pots of healthy, green turmeric!!

Mom had brought in one pot. But the productive turmeric had spread itself quietly into a few other neighboring pots!

We discovered a couple of plants thriving in the mother-in-law’s balcony too!

Suddenly we realized that the turmeric plants were ready to be harvested, and we had been sitting on a gold mine!

Some Anxious Moments

While we were tugging out the roots and oohing and aahing over all the lifetime supply of turmeric we were about to have, we suddenly found this creature buried under all the leaves.

Picture by Anu Anniah

It was muddy, slimy, and looked like a prehistoric relative of the spider. We could even see its ribs! I sent off photos to friends to try and guess what it might be.

We got responses such as walnut spider, spidera octopusia and so on.

It was super fun to reveal the answer — ‘turmeric’. Just that one of the roots had molded itself after its favorite spider, I suppose!

Wash, Skin, Chop

All of us were super thrilled at the huge loot we had harvested. I sent photos to a bunch of friends and imagined them all turning as green as the turmeric leaves.

I was determined to put in whatever effort it took to convert the grimy, mud-covered turmeric roots into usable fine yellow powder.

Checked the Internet for turmeric making tips. Thoroughly confused by the variety of instructions, I called a knowledgable aunt. After all, she must have done this hundreds of times! And she had. Armed with her tips, I embarked on the journey from root to powder.


The first task was to get the stubborn mud off the backs of those turmeric creatures! Since they had spent so much time bonding, it wasn’t easy to separate them!


The next task was to skin them! The skin is not thick. I just had to gently coax it out with a knife. But when you are dealing with as many pieces as we had, the gentle coaxing took a good part of the next hour! Or maybe I am just slow!


The turmeric has to dry completely before I can even dream about powdering it. To help dry quickly, my aunt asked me to chop them up into thin slices. You can see from the photo of this stage that I lost patience pretty early into the task.

Picture by Anu Anniah

There was a little bit of drama when the teen skipped into the kitchen around this time, said, ‘oooh, carrots’, and popped a piece into her mouth before I could stop her.

I wish I could have captured her expression! Raw turmeric is not bad to eat, but I think her reaction was more in response to feeling cheated. 🙂


Those pieces have been drying for a week now. It doesn’t help that the Sun is playing peekaboo with the clouds this week.

And oh one small data point. We started by thinking we might have tons of turmeric powder considering size of the harvest. I had plans to give some to the MIL (well, she has a share in this. 2 pots were her’s), and some to the kind neighbor aunty who keeps supplying us with delicious food!

But! Here is what the loot looks like now.

Picture by Anu Anniah

This is not yet dry. At this rate of shriveling, I’ll be surprised if I can get 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder at the end of it all!

Turmeric to the Rescue — Home Remedies

Turmeric has tons of medicinal benefits and is the base ingredient in a lot of medicines. Christina M. Ward has explained much of this very nicely in her article. Her article pushed me from my procrastination and made me write this article.

However, if you have access to fresh turmeric powder, there are lots of home remedies that come in pretty handy.

Cold and Runny Nose

Have a bad cold and a runny or stuffy nose? No problem.

  • Boil water in a vessel with a teaspoon or two of turmeric powder.
  • Use the boiled water as a steam inhaler.
  • Do this a couple of times a day, and maybe once just before going to bed.

You will find relief.

Sore or Scratchy Throat

Been struggling with a cough and sore throat? Does this peak around bedtime? No problem.

  • Boil a glass of milk with a couple of pinches of turmeric powder and a black peppercorn or two.
  • If you have ghee (clarified butter), add a drop of it into the boiling milk.
  • Add sugar if you prefer a sweet taste.
  • Cool the turmeric milk to a reasonable temperature (don’t drink it cold).
  • Drink up (preferably hot). You might not like the taste much the first time you drink this. I find that this might be an acquired taste. You will get used to it over time.

That should help you have a cough-free night.

These are tips handed down from generations in our families. It works. Best part? No side effects.

That’s it for this episode of Turmeric Tales 🙂

I’d like to thank Christina M. Ward for inspiring me to write this article sooner than I expected!

Originally published on Medium.com at this location.

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