‘Azafran’, as far as I have been able to ascertain,refers in Mexico
to various ingredients used to give foods –especially rice dishes like Paella – the signature bright yellow-orange color of saffron. Actual saffron, Crocus sativus, is, in fact, one of the most expensive spices in the world. Depending on the variety of crocus it is harvested from–as well as other factors that measure its quality– it can sell for anywhere from $1000- $5000 USD per pound. Sure, a pound goes a long way, but it’s hard to find a small quantity for under $20 in US gourmet shops and I don’t know about you, but this is more luxury than I can usually justify. Turns out turmeric is good for the colour, complex flavor, and even more.
I was fingering some of these pinky finger-sized tubers in a local tienda, noting the lines circumscribing them and the brilliant orange flesh that was revealed when I scratched at the skin, The hand lettered sign in the basket read: ‘Azafrán’. It looked, to me, a little like ginger.
I bought a few, scraped off the skin and had a nibble. I recognized the flavor immediately as turmeric. The actual name for turmeric in Spanish is curcuma, (Latin: Curcuma longa )but in Mexico, as it is used as a replacement for saffron, it’s commonly known as azafrán.
I love Indian food, and a perk of living in a large expat community is there is greater demand for imported foods than in most towns of the same size in Mexico. The same shop I was in sold Basmati Rice (mind you, it cost a fortune), so I was thrilled to be able to prepare a semi-authentic Biryani that night…
With a supply of turmeric readily available, I became curious about its food value…
I was familiar with the bright yellow powdered spice and have golden stains on my apron to prove it. In India, it’s consumed daily by most people, usually as the fresh root. There, its powerful medicinal values are well known. In cold countries, it’s just not readily available fresh, so powdered is most familiar. However, it seems the “jury” is out on the benefits of fresh vs. dried, or whether it needs to be heated for full benefit. (If anyone finds clear evidence, please add a comment below as I would love to know.)
So here’s what I found (I left out the possible benefits in treating cancer and Alzheimers as the research is as yet inconclusive)…
- Alterative (restores health), analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-allergic, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, appetizer, astringent, cardiovascular, carminative (anti-gas!), digestive, diuretic, stimulant, and vulnerary (heals wounds).
- Aids medicinally in healing ulcers, parasitic infections, various skin disorders, strains, bruises, joints inflammation (osteo- and rhumatoid arthritis) , cold and flu symptoms.
- Internal antiseptic and antidote to blood poisoning.
- Protects skin from pollution and bacteria and thus discourages wrinkles… Yay!
- Aids in the body’s resistance against allergies in the throat, nose and bronchial
Recently, I used it myself to avoid taking antibiotics after oral surgery, both taking it as a supplement and using it topically on the wound.
How to use it:
if you can get the fresh root ( you can order it from AMAZON) slice it up and add it to rice, or carrot soup, or other dishes where its slightly pungent carrot-y flavor will lend itself.
I like to add it to my green smoothie. Scrape one small root, about 2″ in length, and slice it up to add it to your favorite combination in the blender.
Take it as a supplement. The dosage will depend on your condition… Generally, I hear about 2,000-3,000mg/day divided over 2 or 3 doses. Click here to read what Dr. Weil has to say about turmeric.
You can buy turmeric powder anywhere spices are sold. As always, look for the freshest possible option. The actual fresh root can be ordered by mail as can the powder packaged into capsules to use as a supplement. Always, before taking any supplements check with your health practitioner for contraindications. Turmeric, for example exacerbates the activity of blood thinners.
One of the few things turmeric is not indicated for is making you smarter… but given what it does do, seems you might just be smarter to have it around for the many other benefits it offers.