Luyang Dilaw – English translation Yellow Ginger – Turmeric, is a member of the ginger plant family. It is a perennial plant with green leaves and has light yellow flowers with a tinge of pink in the outer petals in a spike. The roots or rhizomes are the main crop of this plant. The roots are brown outside but bright yellow almost golden inside.
The roots are the source of the turmeric which is the main ingredient in making curry powder. Roots are boiled first and then dried before grounding. This process makes the turmeric turn into bright yellow color. That is why turmeric is also use as coloring agent for foods like cheese and use as a substitute for saffron although they have a totally different taste. The powder is also used as dye for fabrics. But in my hometown, it has a different use which is using it as a wash for dead people, that is why it is not very popular as a condiment or spice. It connotes a different meaning when you mention “luyang dilaw” or yellow ginger. It is almost a superstition not to use it except for the dead.
Anyways, turmeric has been valued now around the world as a healing spice. The Japanese like to make them as tea. People from India has been using this spice centuries ago not only as food additives but for medicinal purposes as well, not to mention dyeing their colorful fabrics with these wonderful rhizomes.
I remember the old folks in my place boiling yellow ginger with the regular ginger during the Holy Week. People would be singing the Passion Of Christ during these days and they use this drink as tea to relieve sore throats from singing all day long.
I am glad to be able to plant the turmeric in my garden so I can reap the benefits from the healing properties of this wonderful spice. I started the plant from a root that I bought in the marketplace in Chinatown. I made sure the soil has a good drainage and rich in organic matter like compost. I understand that it needs a lot of moisture so I made sure it is well watered. For three months I watched it grow and the leaves were really green and bright. They are like ornamental plants because they look beautiful in the garden. Then I saw my surprise, which are the beautiful flower spikes, (I have never seen a flower of the turmeric plant before) so I was so happy I took pictures of the flowers as you will see in the following pages. And then I saw the leaves turning yellow so I figured maybe it is time for me to harvest just like the onions. It was amazing how many roots I got from that one clump. I was so happy that day but then I did not know what to do with all the roots I gathered. I washed them good and removed all the soil and let them dry and up to now I still have some roots to boil every time I need some good tea to drink. I sometimes put some leaves of the lemon verbena to the tea to improve the flavor. By itself, it is not really good tasting, but with lemon verbena or lemon basil, it really is a refreshing drink.