Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Steps towards self-sufficiency - Homemade turmeric powder

 I have been dreaming about and slowly working towards partial self-sufficiency in a few things that can be managed in a mostly urban area. Due to the lack of growing space and lack of time, complete self-sufficiency is not going to be possible. But there are quite a lot of things that I can still do in my urban home so as not to purchase every single thing from a store. The reasons are two fold - by not consuming a lot of processed things, I hope to maintain good health for my family for a long time. The second reason stems from my effort to be ecologically conscious, to try to tread as lightly as possible on this earth for as long as we are privileged to be here! 

To that end, I have been growing some vegetables and herbs in my backyard. As a full time working mom of two boys, I haven't been able to devote a lot of focused time to the kitchen garden and that shows in my sporadic harvests. But this past year has been slightly better. Although I got to a late start and didn't grow as many plants, I still got a very decent harvest of long beans, Armenian cucumbers, okra, amaranth, cow peas, cluster beans and spring onions. I also grew mint, rosemary, sage and oregano and was able to dry some and make my own mixed herbs. I realized that with a little bit more planning and with an organized approach, I would be able to grow a little bit more. 

One harvest that I was really looking forward to was the turmeric harvest. Turmeric is very widely used in Indian cuisine and I had long envisioned growing and making my own turmeric powder. A good friend had shared a few rhizomes with me a couple of years back. I had let the clump grow for about 2 years without harvesting at all. This year, I decided to see if there was any action going on underground at all! 

The day I cut down the long fragrant leaves of the plants and dug up the clumps was like a day at the candy store for a sweet toothed kid! I pulled out all the roots and dug around the area carefully so as not to break any rhizomes. The whole muddy clump was actually a delight to behold! 

Once cleaned and sorted, the turmeric rhizomes weighed about 4.5 pounds, which was a fantastic surprise! 

This was one of the clumps that I dug out. I had two big clumps growing next to each other. I had to dig gently up to almost 8 - 10 inches underneath the surface to get to most of the rhizomes. I think I did get everything out, if not, we will know in the spring when the rhizomes will start sending out shoots again! 

The dried flower was another bonus. I did not use it for anything, but the fragrance was out of this world. Very earthy, but also floral and heady. I would go out to the plant just to get a whiff of the flower. 

Once I harvested all the rhizomes, I got a big bucket, filled it with water and dumped everything into the water. I let it sit there for about 30 minutes and then went back and rinsed off the rhizomes pretty thoroughly, changing the water several times, until the water was clear and the rhizomes looked very clean.

Since I did this on the back patio, I was able to minimize the mud and the dirty water in the kitchen. The water went into the nearby plants!

This was the sum total of all my turmeric harvest, after the ends were chopped off and the mud was cleaned off. The darkest rhizomes on right were the original ones that I had planted. The paler ones are the new growth. I left the rhizomes on a sheet of paper in my kitchen corner for a few days.

I set aside some of the turmeric to use in pickles and other dishes. The rest of them were destined to be made into powder. After a couple of days on the sheet of paper, some of the outer skin was getting dried. I used a paper towel to brush off the dried layers and used a box grater to thinly slice the turmeric as best as I could. 
I did not boil the rhizomes before hand. I had read several articles on how to make the powder and there were two thoughts on that. Some boiled the roots in water until tender and then dried them and powdered them, others didn't. My sister in law back in India told me that she never boiled hers. She has been doing this process for a long time and so I decided to follow hers.
I spread out the slices into a single layer on a parchment lined baking tray and set it out in the sun. I covered the tray with a mesh net to prevent the slices from flying off and to prevent and birds from pecking at them.

I brought the tray back in at night and set it out again the next day. I continued the process until the slices were crisp and dried and had no hint of moisture. 
I then blended it using my Indian blender jar. 
Of course its not as finely milled as it would be in a professional mill, but for home use it will do.
The powder is also very pungent and fragrant and a little goes a long way.
It remains to be seen how long this will last for me and my family since I use turmeric powder in a lot of my dishes. 

Have you tried making turmeric powder before? Do share your tips and techniques in the comments below! 
~ Until next time, may the grass always be greener on your side of the fence ~

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