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Fresh Turmeric: What it Looks Like and How to Use It

Most of us who venture into the world of Indian cooking (outside of India) are introduced to the spice turmeric in its bright yellow ground form as opposed to the fresh form which looks so similar to fresh ginger.  Turmeric gives a beautiful color to rice and meats and is a popular ingredient in curry dishes, different types of biryani and even American mustard. For this reason, it’s often referred to as Indian saffron.

I stumbled upon this turmeric at a large supermarket in the Chicago suburbs. It’s not overtly advertised as an international market, but as many grocers in metropolitan areas serve a larger international community, they shouldn’t be overlooked for what they hold inside. In fact, this market had everything from Indian to Mexican to Polish and even Middle Eastern and Asian food products that are normally found at small specialty shops.

This fresh turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is actually the rhizome (group of roots) part of the plant and the part that is used to make the powder often used in cooking. It’s boiled then dried and ground.

It’s also used quite similarly to ginger. It should be peeled first, then chopped or grated to use in cooking much like you would use the powder. I often use a spoon to scrape the skin, but you can also use a vegetable peeler. Look at that bright orange color- isn’t it beautiful?

Once the turmeric is peeled, use a cheese grater to get sizeable amounts to work with. I suggest wearing gloves and nothing that you would be upset about ruining (i.e. white clothing). I have white counters and it was everywhere, but I was able to clean if off immediately with a toxic-free cleanser. My hands, however, were a totally different story. I wanted to experiment to see what I had to do to get it off my hands and even lemon and white vinegar took a good day of scrubbing to wipe it off completely. This stuff would make good henna art!

I used this turmeric root in one sitting because I made a huge pot of lamb stew, but it would also be great in my Turmeric & Ginger Chicken Saute recipe.

How about you? Have you ever used fresh turmeric? What’s your favorite way to use this spice- fresh or ground?

A Note About Turmeric for Good Health

I first gained an affinity for turmeric nearly ten years ago when I visited an ayurvedic doctor who recommended I use turmeric powder (or haldi, as he called it) in warm milk to reduce internal inflammation. At first, I was turned off by the prescription, but it actually tasted quite good. Now, even Dr. Oz talks about turmeric’s amazing healing properties quite often on his show.*

*Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. Consult a physican before using any herbs or spices as medicine to avoid adverse reactions.

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8 comments

  1. Turmeric powder (Haldi) and milk (with butter and honey to make the taste tolerable) is a very popular internal inflammation treatment in South East Asia! Some eat a 1/8 teaspoon of the powder to help with arthritis pain and reduce diabetes related inflammation. AND, If I am correct, a haldi paste is also used on cuts, burns for its antiseptic, antibiotic and wound healing properties. It is also mixed with rosewater and some other ingredients for a facial scrub/face mask.

  2. Great information, Madiha. That is also what I have read. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Does fresh turmeric taste different than ground? I know fresh ginger definitely has a different side to it than the ground stuff and is not interchangeable.

  4. Fresh tumeric or Haldi( pronounced Hardee in Trinidad) is used to make a special tea for all ailments in our family. It is usually grated and boiled with clove, cardammon, cinammon sticks and then sweetened with condensed milk to taste. It is called Karhaa.
    I use haldi in my cooking. But what is important for me as I am challenged with RA is that I add grated ginger to the brew and use it on a daily basis without the milk. I sweeten with honey instead.

  5. @QATheWorld- I do think it tastes different- more pungent in smell and taste. When it’s boiled then dried to be ground, I think it loses some of that. What’s interesting, though is that the resulting color of foods seems to be about the same.

  6. Awesome write. Never knew what looked like outside the powdered form find in Indian stores. Going to look for it for sure!!

  7. Hi,
    I stumbled upon this blog, and i love it. great & creative recipes..

    about tumeric – it is known as ‘kunyit ‘ in Malay and “Manjle’ in Tamil.
    Widely used by these two communities here from Malaysia. Here, we use a lot in our cooking, for curry & gravy types of cooking. also well known in alternative medication. :)

  8. I just started buying the fresh tumeric. I only put a small piece in my daily smoothie. Hardly any taste but I think an healthy thing to do.

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