SONGS WERE echoing in the air as the bride was given a traditional bath before the big day. There was fun and frolic all around. Bath over, the bride came out looking quite yellow, but a day later she would shine like gold on her wedding day. We are, of course, talking today about turmeric, the ingredient that has always been part and parcel of our lives. Every Indian kitchen will surely possess it. Though an extremely ordinary ingredient, it is vital in our day-to-day life. Our food would be so drab to look at were it not for this vital rhizome. Now what is a rhizome? It basically means an underground root stem. This is an underground tuber of a plant that bears similarity to the ginger plant and has been in the use for ages. It gets mention in the early Vedic text. Apart from being an important spice for cookery, it was and is still being used in religious ceremonies. Apart from being used in cooking, haldi was used as a dye and was only recently replaced by other compounds. It is also used as an antibiotic. We have all heard about grandma's remedy of hot milk and turmeric to ease the irritation in the throat. I remember a day when I cut my finger quite deep and was bleeding quite profusely. A senior came to my aid and made me hold my finger in a fistful of turmeric. Very soon the bleeding stopped and without any burning sensation. It was indeed a great cure and I have used it very effectively over the years for any junior colleague.

Fresh turmeric root is also used to make a pickle. It is salted for a day and mixed with oil, methi, rai, chilli powder and tamarind juice, which are heated first and then cooled. They are then again mixed together and kept for two weeks to make a very unique pickle.

When saffron is not available, turmeric can at least be used to derive the colour though not the flavour. Turmeric is used to colour lemon rice, pulihora and many other rice preparations, not to mention the numerous amount of curries. It is used to bring out the brightness of the food. To make a small difference to a few of your dishes, add a pinch of turmeric to your noodle preparations, to brighten up your dish or mix a little with your roti dough with ajwain for ajwain phulka or flavour day-old rice with turmeric, salt and green chillies, temper your curd with jeera and turmeric to change the flavour of every day eating.

A friend told me that if your clothes get stained with haldi rub with a piece of lemon and milk, wash with any detergent and dry in the sun. So brighten your day with turmeric.

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