October Foragers 2: Nuts, Seeds, and How to Drink More Turmeric by Emma Williams
When I was thinking about topics for October’s blog, turmeric quickly came to mind, probably because it’s the color of pumpkin. As you may know, turmeric is a rhizome that is used as a seasoning in many cuisines. One of the active compounds is curcumin, which is said to have anti-inflammatory powers; you can learn more about the health benefits from this blog post.
Turmeric is often sold as a powder, but in this form it has been frequently adulterated with lead chromate in Bangladesh and neighboring countries. The powdered lead makes the turmeric more appealingly bright in color, while also making it heavier, increasing the profit margin. This is, of course, an evil thing to do to food, because no amount of lead consumption is safe. Lead contamination has also been documented in the United States, as described in this 2017 commentary in the journal Public Health Reports.
As a result of this, I started buying turmeric root instead of powder, although more recent reports suggest that contamination of the powder has become less of a problem. Fresh turmeric root often sold at the small Martin’s grocery store near me in Smithsburg, and it’s consistently available at bigger grocery stores or at H Mart. (I’m always happy for an excuse to go to HMart.) Turmeric is also easy to grow in the ground or in a container. You can regrow it from its cute little root nubs, just like you can with its cousin, ginger. It also freezes well.
If you’ve read previous posts, you may be wondering when I’m going to mention Lacey, Taylor, and the other foragers. Turmeric doesn’t relate directly to this month’s foragers gathering. But just to catch you up, it was a nice one – we walked through the grounds gathering seeds and nuts, then went back to the barn and learned how to smash those nuts. (Ouch!) Also, there was a cake made with acorn flour, which I sadly missed, because I left early to drive my children to places, like I constantly do.
Anyway, back to turmeric. There are lots of yummy soups and curries that involve turmeric, but I’ve found that drinks are the most practical way to consume it routinely. Here’s a list of ideas:
- Tincture – Turmeric is easy to tincture; here’s a tutorial explaining how to make it and why to use it that way.
- Golden milk – The internet has a lot of recipes for golden milk in one-cup quantities that involve measuring out 6-8 different herbs each time you make it. That’s tedious, and so I was delighted to find Minimalist Baker’s golden milk paste recipe. I use honey in it instead of maple syrup. Although I don’t normally like appliances that only serve one purpose, I bought a plant-based milk maker, and it has made the process of making golden milk even easier. I just put the paste in with the nuts or grains used to make the milk. By the way, golden milk is also sometimes called turmeric latte. But then sometimes the phrase turmeric latte refers to coffee with turmeric added.
- Infused honey – Despite the ease of the above recipe, lately I was too overwhelmed to even make the full paste and just grated up some turmeric and let it infuse into honey, preparing it with nut milk as described above or with hot water.
- Turmeric bug – Apparently, turmeric can be lacto-fermented into a “bug” which can then be turned into turmeric soda. I tried this once and was not successful, but I like the idea, especially for summer when golden milk becomes less appealing.
- Water kefir – Lately I have been making water kefir and finding it really refreshing. Grated turmeric can be added during the second fermentation, but it’s best to add another flavor too, like ginger. Similarly, turmeric can be used to flavor kombucha.
Note: Adding black pepper to turmeric makes it far more bioavailable. So, it’s worth adding to any of the recipes above.
Just to bring things full circle, spicebush would be a lovely addition to these recipes too.
Written by Emma Williams