Turmeric is the original multi-purpose product – cook with it, use it as disinfectant, use it in cosmetics and even dye clothes with it. For everyone who grew up in India in the 80s and 90s, the Vicco Turmeric jingle is well implanted in our heads. The company hasn’t changed its advertising jingle in decades, also arguably because our faith in turmeric remains unshaken. Turmeric or Curcuma longa is India’s third most exported spice after black pepper and cardamom. And India is both – the world’s largest producer as well as the largest consumer of turmeric. In fact, it is mentioned in Sanskrit texts as early as the 4th and 5th centuries CE.

A beautiful turmeric flower

The ‘golden spice’ actually grows as a tuber, underground. And once the rhizomes are ready, the turmeric bulbs and rhizomes need to be carefully removed by hand. After being cultivated, the fingers and bulbs are boiled separately. Soda bicarbonate is added to the boiling water, and eventually minute quantities of sodium bisulphate and hydrochloric acid are mixed in to give turmeric its characteristic yellow tint – about 20 grams of each for 50 kilos of spice! Then the turmeric pieces are dried in the sun for roughly two weeks, after which they harden. They are subsequently taken to the factory for processing. The turmeric pieces are then polished and cleaned using a manual or power rotating drum.

Turmeric itself comes in different varieties, grown predominantly in Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala respectively. The turmeric from Bihar is known for its deep colour, and the Lokhandi variety from Maharashtra is often used to create a dye.

Turmeric being processed at a factory

Its versatility is matched only by the faith of hundreds of millions, who use it daily in their food, on their faces and also for their gods.

Article by: P.K. Ghanekar
Photos by: Pradeep Sutar

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