I’ve recently been given a couple of plants that deserve a blog all their own. They aren’t the usual run-of-the-mill herbs that people put into their herb gardens.
The first one I’ll tell you about is Turmeric. I discovered that I’d been saying and spelling it incorrectly all these years. Not only that, but I’d never used it in cooking.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), is also known as "Indian Saffron." It is not a true saffron, but often used in place of the more expensive real saffron. It is a perennial herbaceous spice of the ginger family and is not related to saffron at all.
The part of the plant that is used is the rhizome in a process that takes several hours or even days. This process consists of lengthy boiling, drying and grinding. It is used not only for curries and other spicy dishes, but for dyeing and coloring mustard.
I don’t think I’ll be trying to produce my own turmeric anytime soon, but I may buy some and try a recipe or two. Curry is probably one of the most popular culinary uses for turmeric. Remember that curry is not “a” spice, but a combination of spices. For a list of some of the spice mixes, look here.
For an excellent simple recipe complete with a lively video demo, go here. This looks like something I might even try! By the way, this blog by Rob Klause has some great stuff on a regular basis.
In other countries, turmeric is used as an antiseptic and antibacterial agent. Some use it as a tea to help with everything from Alzheimer’s to cancer to stomach ailments, to liver problems. The National Institutes of Health are running clinical trials to see if the claims are valid.
Turmeric is also used in some sun screens. There are other cosmetic uses and beliefs. And since it is known to deter ants, I will keep the plant (see above) in my garden.
The other plant I was given is Wild Oregano - the picture above. It smells strongly like the typical oregano on our kitchen shelf, but after reading about it, I find it’s not one I would use in my Greek or Italian cuisine.
It is a perennial herb, propagated by dividing the roots in the fall. Mine were cuttings and seem to be doing fine after I stuck them into the ground with a lot of soil. At least they haven’t died yet.
The name “oregano” (or origanum) comes from two Greek words. Oros is the Greek word for mountain and ganos means joy, thus it represents “mountain of joy.” I hope it spreads all over my yard to give me that “joy.”
If not for food, then what good is Wild Oregano, other than as decoration in your yard? It is made into an oil that can be used both internally and externally, and is known for curing all manner of ills.
The Consumer Health Organization of Canada has a very interesting article about the studies that are being conducted, and the uses for which oil of oregano has value. It sounds like a “cure-all.”
Some vitamin supply houses sell it as “Colon Essentials” in capsule form. Other sources sell it mixed with a solvent. I’m not giving you the links for this because I wouldn’t know which one is most trustworthy. You can Google “oil of oregano” and decide for yourself. One-ounce bottles seem to be selling for around $27-30. Capsules are much lower in price.
This is another of those items I’ll NOT try to produce out of my own garden, but it’s always fascinating to me what uses can be made of these off-beat herbs and spices. I have always suspected that our ancestors knew far more about health than we do. On the other hand, if they did know so much more, why was their life expectancy so much shorter than ours today?
I’m a bit of a skeptic on these issues, although I do know many people have had amazing health results. What I do love is how pretty they look growing in my lava. I’ll buy turmeric at the store, pick from my own Greek oregano plant, and continue to see my local physician for medical help.
Until next time, "Lava Lily" says Aloha!
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