Turmeric, our friendly neighborhood spice
Growing up, turmeric was the all-doing spice in the Patel residence. Like many South Asian families, turmeric (also known as “haldi” or “hardar”) was woven into the fabric of our cooking, medicine, skin care and even festivities. Whether it was devouring it mom’s Gujarati meals (like khichdi, kela nu shak, athanu, and recently masala popcorn 🍿), drinking turmeric with hot water/milk when we were sick (yes golden latte’s existed a long time ago 😉), keeping our skin healthy with homemade turmeric and chickpea flour (“chana na lot”) face masks facemask 💆🏾♀️, or “gently slapping” turmeric paste on the bride & groom during the Haldi ceremony (the closer you were to the groom, the less gentle it was 👏🏽), turmeric was used across our daily lives. However, the common use of hardar in Indian households dates back to centuries ago.
Let’s rewind to 4,500 years ago...
Before turmeric gained interest from today’s health and nutrition communities (and some coffee shops that also sell “chai tea lattes” 🙈), it was used both as a spice and medicinal herb thousands of years ago. Excavations near New Delhi surfaced pots with residue from turmeric, ginger and garlic that have been said to date back as early as 2500 BCE.
It was around 500 BCE when this ancient spice became an important part of Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient Indian system of natural healing which is still practiced today! It’s been said that our ancestors inhaled fumes of burning turmeric (do not try this at home) to alleviate congestion, drank turmeric juice to help heal wounds, and applied turmeric paste to ease skin conditions. Kinda sounds like what we did at the Patel residence growing up (besides inhaling fumes 🙈). Ayurvedic literature actually contains over 100 different terms for turmeric, including jayanti, meaning one who is victorious over diseases, and matrimanika, meaning as beautiful as moonlight.
Fast forward to the 21st century...
Turmeric has definitely been having a “moment”. It’s attracted quite a bit of interest for its natural health benefits thanks to curcumin, the main active component in turmeric that gives it its vibrant color and healing properties. Studies show curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects (reducing inflammation in the body) and is a strong antioxidant (protect your cells against free radicals, molecules produced when your body breaks down food or when you’re exposed to smoke or radiation, that can play a role in heart issues, cancer and other diseases).
It’s important to note that very high levels of turmeric are required to produce its medicinal effects. The curcumin content of turmeric is fairly low (~3% by weight), so just using turmeric as a spice in your foods won’t be enough, but starting to adopt it in your daily diet or snacks (hyperlink snack to masala popcorn product page) is a great place to start!
Confusion & turmeric...
Growing up, no Bollywood movie night was complete without my dad’s masala popcorn. The combination of haldi (turmeric), kashmiri red chili (mirch) & salt was healthy yet addicting. Once we left home, I took his recipe with me but fused it with my Indian-American palette, one that was obsessed with truffle at the time. I literally was putting truffle in everything, but it eventually found it’s home in my dad’s masala popcorn. A few experiments later, I discovered the unconventional yet tasty fusion of black truffle & traditional Indian spices that made every movie night just that much better.
It’s been really exciting for me to see the rise in awareness of turmeric, especially how some South Asian founded brands are sharing the traditional spice through products inspired by their own experiences with it. For me, I’m excited to carry forward those rich childhood memories of turmeric into our Black Truffle Masala popcorn.
Give it a try today!