Spice

Fresh Turmeric and Why You Should Be Eating More of It

January 10, 2015

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: The vibrant root (well technically, rhizome) you should be eating more of.

Fresh Turmeric

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If you have a jar of ground turmeric in your spice rack, it’s probably for one of two reasons. One: You cook a lot of cuisines that call for it in their dishes (like Indian, Thai, or Persian, perhaps) and your jar of ground turmeric gets almost as much use as salt, the kitchen hussy. Or, two: You picked up a jar of it ages ago for a recipe that called for a small amount -- probably more for color than flavor -- and your ground turmeric sees less action than juniper berries

Don’t get me wrong, I like its color-boosting powers, especially in scrambled tofu. There’s a reason it’s sometimes referred to as "poor man’s saffron" -- it has a lot of value as an all-natural coloring agent: It’s used to color everything from mustard to chicken soup. (You can also use ground turmeric to dye Easter eggs.) 

It’s just that we sometimes pigeonhole turmeric, thinking of it only in its dried, ground form -- if not as a coloring agent, than as an integral ingredient of curry powder. But as with all jars of spices in our cupboards, they originate as plants. Although other parts of the turmeric plant are edible, what we’re talking about using today is the rhizome. (So it's technically not the root, but I thought if I lead with a mandate to eat more of a rhizome, I’d lose you before I’ve begun.)

More: Lotus root is another rhizome worth seeking out.

Turmeric has medicinal value as well, which Diane Morgan reviews in Roots: “The yellow compound found in the rhizome is curcumin, which has been the focus of several scientific studies into its anti-inflammatory and anticancer potential, based on its antioxidant strength.” It’s also used in Ayurvedic medicine to heal wounds, relieve abdominal pain, and treat a wide variety of other ailments

While we can’t recommend eating more turmeric for any purported medical benefits (this is the part where we insert the tiny font warnings from drug commercials and advise you to talk to your doctor before undertaking a new medical regimen), we can encourage you to introduce more fresh turmeric into your diet for the benefit of adding color and flavor to your plate. If you haven't worked with it much, it has a slight musty smell and a bit of an earthy, bitter sharpness. Enjoyed fresh, turmeric has a sweetness to it, too.

Try looking for fresh turmeric at a specialty grocery store, heath food store, or Indian or Asian market. Store it in the refrigerator: Wrap it in paper towel, and then pop it in a plastic bag. It will keep well for a week or two. If you notice any mold, cut it off and replace the paper towel.

Fresh Turmeric

Fresh turmeric looks like ginger consciously coupled with a carrot for the sole purpose of creating eye-catching offspring with stunningly beautiful, vibrantly orange flesh (and, as at least part of its good looks suggest, turmeric is in fact closely related to ginger). Fresh turmeric should be peeled (1, far above) with a paring knife, vegetable peeler, or spoon (as you can do with ginger), and then prepared as desired. It's easier to grate (2) than ginger is, as it's less fibrous. Just remember the part about it being a natural dye -- it's equally effective on your cutting board and your fingers. Tip: Wash cutting surfaces immediately and either wear gloves or be prepared for yellow fingers.

Then, try using using fresh turmeric in one of these seven tasty ways:

  • Like ginger, after peeling and grating turmeric, the pulp can be squeezed to produce juice (put it through a juicer for an easier time getting larger quantities). Use that liquid in salad dressings, bread dough, or your morning juice or smoothie.
  • It can be thinly sliced or chopped into tiny matchsticks for a lively addition to green salads, potato salads, and slaws.
  • Use fresh turmeric in lentil, rice, and other grain dishes.
  • Sliced, it can be added to soups or pickled.
  • Fresh turmeric pairs well with egg dishes: Try grating some into egg salads, scrambled eggs, or omelettes.
  • Use grated turmeric in a marinade for chicken, fish, or vegetables.
  • Make turmeric tea with grated turmeric, honey, and freshly grated black pepper. (You’ll often see turmeric paired with black pepper, as it helps with the absorption of the turmeric.) If you don’t want to wing it, try Jennifer Perillo’s recipe.

Tell us: How do you like to use fresh turmeric?

Photos by Mark Weinberg

53 Comments

Sylvia August 22, 2018
I boil a gallon of fresh tumeric, ginger and green tea to keep in my refrigerator to drink once a week. Does anyone know how long the nutrients last or how long it keeps in the refrigerator. Thanks.
 
Sylvia August 22, 2018
Sylvia DuBose
 
Shilly S. March 10, 2018
Not for every day but is good at weekends when you have time to make it properly - ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, lemon and honey - just remember to add the lemon and honey last as heat destroys some of their properties :) Could also add some cider vinegar.
 
Cheri D. February 17, 2018
I am so curious to know. I make a tonic most mornings for my husband and I with: fresh grated Turmeric, skin and all, ACV, good Squeeze of lemon, 10 shakes of fresh black pepper, 6drops stevia, filled with soda water and shaken and poured. In your opinion, is this tonic good for us or no?
 
Lady_DancingDog February 8, 2018
can anybody tell if freezing fresh turmeric or ginger will hurt the health compounds? (I love to freeze ginger as it breaks up the fibers, and I use it as needed, shave it in paperthin curls with a knife and put into foods/soups, it liquefies)
 
..gg February 8, 2018
This from: www.extension.umn.edu/food/food.../preserving/freezing/the-science-of-freezing<br />"Freezing, when properly done, is the method of food preservation which may potentially preserve the greatest quantity of nutrients."
 
Denise October 28, 2017
Me again, how much raw turmeric is good to take at one time? I grate it after the skin is off. Beginner here. Thanks!
 
Denise October 28, 2017
Hi, I'm new to organic raw turmeric. Got some very small pieces at my health food store. BUT it doesn't stain anything (not my fingers, not the cutting board). Does this mean it's not a fresh turmeric or ? Puzzled. <br />
 
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. October 29, 2017
Perhaps your piece was a little on the dry side? Or maybe you're just a very careful grater!
 
Denise October 29, 2017
Piece wasn't dry -- I deliberately rubbed my finger against the cut side of the turmeric root. Dunno. <br />
 
Carrie R. June 28, 2018
Are you sure it’s tumeric and not ginger? I have never had tumeric that didn’t stain even when it started to dry out.
 
Debby L. July 4, 2017
I just started using turmeric in the last year. I am always looking for new recipes to use these in. I take each root and peel them and grind them down and freeze half to be used in recipes and the rest I dehydrate and put it into a container to be used as a mixture into juice or tea.<br />
 
Sonja S. June 23, 2017
I came across powered turmeric as a use for arthritis (and of course, cooking). I have started to use it raw in my daily Nutribullet drink along with veg and fruit. Pain in my hands have just about gone. It's great stuff.
 
Anisha February 9, 2017
I peel equal amounts of fresh turmeric and ginger (about 100 gms or half a cup each), then chop coarsely and blend in a small powerful spice blender (nutribullet would work) with lime juice of 1.5 limes. I strain the blended pulp through a fine sieve using a spatula. Then i mix the extract with 2 TBSP honey and a few grindings of black pepper. Stores cool in an airtight jar for 7-10 days. Swallow a teaspoon 2-3 times daily undiluted. It's a fantastic home remedy and tastes so good. NB: The coarse stuff that doesn't go through the strainer can be used by pouring 1 litre of boiling water over it to make a healthy infusion!
 
..gg November 23, 2016
Why would you bother peeling it assuming it was organically grown?
 
Bonny November 23, 2016
Depends on what you are using it for. I grate with the perl on for tea or drinks where it will be strained later. For curry or other recipes in which it is left in for serving , I peel it. The peel is brownish and a different texture from the flesh. But I don't think you can taste the difference.
 
Nancy November 13, 2016
Can I add a turmeric finger to bone broth? Or will the broth become bitter from the long cook in?
 
Bonny September 22, 2016
About storing tumeric: I store it on the counter in an open basket. It will dry out eventually at which point you can continue grating, rehydrate by soaking in a shallow pan overnight and grate, or plant In a dampish soilless mix that you keep above 70deg and wait for several months until it decides to sprout. At that point transfer to real soil and wait some more. The tumeric I left in a basket on the kitchen counter and planted once it sprouted in March, is now 4 ft tall and beautiful.
 
mv August 23, 2017
You've never had a mold/freshness problem? I found it to soften, instead of harden, when I left it out.<br />
 
Sheryl May 23, 2016
One of my favorite breakfasts (and very filling) is 3 scrambled eggs, usually half an avocado, torn up spinach, turmeric (a couple teaspoons of powder or very finely grated), grated pepper, and Celtic salt; while the spinach and avocado is slowly warming I scramble the eggs, add to the pan and add the seasonings.
 
Paul N. November 2, 2015
As an add,<br /><br />I make a Turmeric smoothie at least a few times week, more if I can.<br /><br />In a blender: Turmeric (about a tablespoon fresh), Ginger (about 1/2 a tablespoon fresh), Grated Frozen Lemon (about 2 tablespoons), a cup of various fruit, in my container half and half water and orange juice with pulp. Sometimes as a extra bonus a clove of garlic and maybe cinnamon. I find this is a fantastic blended drink and have it for lunch at least twice a week.
 
Paul N. November 2, 2015
Good afternoon!<br /><br />Your website is great and I have just joined. I do have a question with regards to fresh Turmeric. I have been buying this recently and have been storing it in a container in the cupboard. I have done this once and it was great, started to dry and I just kept using it by grating it. After running out, i bought more and did the same thing, but the roots went mouldy. So my question is "What is the best way to store Turmeric". Should I just buy enough for a week, use it and get more? Can I dry it and use it as needed?? Looking forward to an answer, because I now have a new batch and it to started going mouldy.<br /><br />Paul
 
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. November 2, 2015
Store it in the refrigerator: Wrap it in paper towel, and then pop it in a plastic bag. It will keep well for a week or two. If you notice any mold, cut it off and replace the paper towel.
 
Annada R. July 6, 2015
I grew up in Mumbai around the Gujarati community. They make a delicious condiment out of fresh turmeric and ginger. Peel the skin off of turmeric and ginger and cut them into thin slices. Add salt and lime juice and store it in the fridge in clean, glass bottle. Throw in in green chile pepper if you're fond of heat. Pickled turmeric and ginger last for 2-3 weeks and as days go, lime seeps into the turmeric and ginger pieces and they become refreshingly tart.
 
Jeanine March 12, 2015
I whir fresh turmeric with garlic, onion, coconut milk, coconut oil, and hot sauce in the food processor to make a sauce. I warm it on the stove and serve it over cooked shrimp, basmati rice, and shredded romaine.
 
Dina February 10, 2015
I was born and raised in Indonesia, my mother used to make me tumeric juice mixed with tamarind everyday...it tastes great,especially when you chill them.
 
Nyborg February 2, 2015
I'm curious as to whether eating a cube of turmeric every day discolors teeth? I know it's great for immunity, but was just wondering about its permanent staining qualities and teeth.
 
NazNyc February 2, 2015
I grew up eating curry/turmeric and I can't say it stained my teeth at all. I do recommend grating it or adding it to warm water if you're gonna have it everyday. I also like adding it to eggs. What actually caused more damage to my teeth was the hot lemon water I drink everyday.
 
Nyborg February 2, 2015
Very helpful. Thank you! Yes, I think one is supposed to brush teeth after hot lemon water, but it's rare that I remember. ;)
 
NazNyc February 2, 2015
The problem with brushing RIGHT after, is that you're in fact helping the acid along to further damage your enamel. I was told to wait 30 mins. SIGH.
 
Suzie M. January 28, 2018
Drink the lemon juice thru a straw and bypass teeth as best you can.<br />