Okay, so it is true that processing turmeric as a spice is easy, but it is also a lot of work. However, it is satisfying and well worth the aromatic freshness that results from your work: You cannot purchase spice this fresh in batches sold in the store or at the farmer’s market.
Turmeric is an extremely important health and wellness spice. It is used in many vegan recipes that are inspired by Indian and Asian foods and is used as a colorant for staining food a beautiful saffron yellow color. Best yet, it is very easy to grow in almost any place that has regular temperatures that rise above 65 degrees. In colder climates, it can be grown indoors. The growth to harvest time is 8 – 10 months.
As a part of my training for my raw food chef certificate in Costa Rica, I have been able to actually experience food on all levels. Chef Eric Rivkin has a beautiful garden at La Joya del Sol containg the most glorious, deep orangey-yellow, full fragrant, expansive spice that I have ever tasted. My classmate Kate Bosher and I spent two days filling a 4 oz jar with this beautiful gift of nature
The following are instructions that can apply to all turmeric grown and picked from the stalk- regardless whether in vast, fruitful gardens or indoor pots used in crowded cities.
You will need:
- A holding container for the tubers, like a small plastic storage bin.
- Two bowls for soaking and washing them.
- A soft scrub brush
- A stainless steel pairing knife or chefs knife for slicing the tubers
- Clean water
- A pair of gloves to protect hour hands from staining
- A colander
- Either a dehydrator with screened shelves, or oven set on lowest setting, which should be no warmer than 110 degrees as well as metal mesh racks that sot in backing pans
- A plastic tray
- A coffee grinder used specifically for grinding spices.
- A hand held sieve
- A spoon
- A glass jar with a tight lid
Cleaning Your Harvest
Turmeric must be completely clean and free of dirt or this will contaminate your dried spice. Clean your turmeric 3-4 times until the water is clear and tubers are free of debris.
For the first wash, fill two bowls with clean water. One will contain the dirty, freshly picked turmeric and the other will receive each piece as you wash them.
Using your hands, rub them over the tubers to loosen the dirt. Gently play with the pieces. You can also gently agitate the water with your hands. Discard spoiled tubers or other debris.
After you have completed the first step, discard the dirty water. You can throw it outside onto your plants so as not to waste it and add castoffs to your compost. Clean the bowl and refill with clean water. It will now be your receiving bowl.
For the second wash, use a soft cleaning scrubbing brush. Soft scrub each individual piece, removing dirt. Discard any inferior pieces that you may have missed during the first watch. Place each one in the clean water bowl. Again, discard dirty water and refill your bowl.
For the third wash, begin breaking off fingers and pulling off visible roots or any small cream-colored roots. Scrub each individual piece putting each in the clean water as you go along. Agitate the water. If the water is still dirty put pieces into a bowl filled with clean water piece by piece until finished. Put in clean pieces in a colander and let extra water drip away.
Now the tubers are ready to process for dehydration.
Cutting for Dehydration
On the cutting board, and using a sharp chef’s knife, begin slicing tubers 1/8 inch thick. As you come to rotten sections, or roots cut and discard them. Only use the good tubers.
Please note that unless your hands are covered and protected they will stain yellow. In fact everything can get stained so be sure to keep this in mind when you select your tools. For instance use an all steel knife instead of one with a plastic handle, or wear latex gloves to protect your hands from discoloration.
As you cut pieces, put them on the dehydrator racks. If you are using an oven, put them on a mesh oven rack that will sit in on a baking sheet.
After you finish slicing the turmeric, wash your knife cutting board and hands. Your knife will have an oily orange sticky resin on it. If you lay it flat on the cutting board you can use the same scrub brush that you used for the dirty turmeric to scrub it clean. hands from discoloration.
Drying and Grinding
Place the prepared racks for drying. In a dehydrator, you will set it for 105 degrees. In the oven, aet it to the lowest setting, but no more than 110 degrees. It will take approximately 10 – 18 hours to dry. If using and oven, turn pieces over about every 3 hours and check for dryness.
Turmeric is finished after it becomes bone dry and snaps when you break a piece in half.
After dehydration, remove tubers to a holding container and atore them until you are ready to grind them.
To grind them into a fine powder, use a coffee grinder that is used only for spices. Pour in small quantities and grind until fine. Pour into your glass jar through a sieve. Use the back end of a spoon to push coarser spice through the sieve by using a back and forth motion. You can always add it back to grinder and ground it again.
Finely, apply a screw on cap to cover it and protect your beautiful turmeric spice. Put it in the refridgerator and it will keep for months — Just long enough for your next harvest (in about 6 – 8 months).