ZEDOARY: WHITE TURMERIC

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CURCUMA ZEDOARIA

 

Zedoary – better known as wWHITE TURMERIChite turmeric – is not exactly like the golden foundation of the curry we know and love, though it is a turmeric variety which means it belongs to the family curcuma. In fact, the rhizomes are almost identical to zingiber officinale. Zedoary is said to carry a flavor that’s similar to the ginger as well, but with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It can be used to create spices, perfumes, massage oils and cosmetics. Let’s put this beauty under the microscope.

ZEDOARY: HOW I MET WHITE TURMERIC

I can’t recall an encounter with zedoary while growing up in Jamaica, though it is quite possible with all the time I spent in the wild. It was not that long ago that an Indian colleague introduced me to an Indian market in our area, thinking I’d find authentic spices and oils that would pique my interest. I was browsing through the refrigerated items and found what appeared to be ginger. As I was sorting through a few select pieces, an employee walked over and asked if I was looking for ginger. When I confirmed his suspicions, he was happy to provide clarity. I’d been looking at white turmeric. He was kind enough to show me to the ginger basket but the white turmeric lingered in my thoughts. You know what I did, right? Research. I wanted to learn all I can about this strange zedoary thing and today, I’m happy I did. I started growing my own and I’ve got to share how rewarding the experience is with you guys.

PLANTING

WHITE TURMERIC

Zedoary makes an excellent ornamental plant, even in smaller spaces. That’s something I know most of us in colder regions can appreciate as you can keep your white turmeric pot in a small space like your kitchen windowsill or next to the shoe rack in your tiny New York apartment. While most of the more familiar and commercially cultivated turmeric varieties produce golden blooms that peep from between bracts of pink and white, there are others that range in colors from orange to pink, to indigo, to violet, to a deep plum. You can see zedoary’s gorgeous buds of sunshine popping out from beneath the folded bracts of violet, pink, green and white. The white turmeric’s pleasantly fragrant and shiny, broad leaves hang gracefully. The ability to grow, thrive and produce in small spaces – coupled with the lovely flowers – make for not only a rewarding ornamental, but a great conversation piece that’s also useful.

CARE

White turmeric plants behave similarly toZEDOARY their relatives, zingiber (Jamaican ginger). Broad leaves that appear as larger bear leeks (allium ursinum) emerge from a central stem in fountain-like folds that hang gracefully outward. The plants, however, are much shorter than the zingiber and do not grow to be much taller than two feet. They prefer partial shade with filtered sunlight in an area protected from strong winds. To keep the rhizomes healthy, plant your turmeric in rich, breathable soil. If your soil is heavy, mix in a generous portion of sand, sawdust and wood chips to create some breathability. You may water generously if your plants are in the ground and the water is able to run off but do not leave your soil waterlogged, especially if your plants are potted. This can lead to root rot and we do not want that. It is also good to allow the soil to dry a little between watering.

If you live in colder regions and your plants are outdoors, the foliage will die back at the cusp of winter. You can harvest your zedoary and use them however you like. Just remember to save a few rhizomes for planting next spring. You can wrap them in an old newspaper and keep them in the bottom of the refrigerator until you’re ready for planting. They will remain fresh for months. When you’re ready to put them back in the ground, soak your white turmeric in a bowl of water for 24 hours. In another three months you can have fresh zedoary rhizomes for your household once more.

HOW DO WE GET FROM HARVEST TO SPICE?

…So how does a white turmeric rhizome transform into powdered spice? It’s actually a very simple and easy process if you’d like to try it at home. It’s also a great project you can get your whole family involved in. Children love seeing how something they helped create can be useful. After harvesting your rhizomes, rinse them thoroughly in a bowl of cool water. Under water, rub them between your fingers to shake all the soil loose. Discard your water and repeat the rinse with clean water as many times as necessary until your water is clear when you pour it off. You can dry your zedoary rhizomes in a clean kitchen towel. I like to use a white towel because white turmeric tends to stain and whites are easy to bleach and I don’t have to worry about ruining a color or pattern.

You can then cut your rhizomes into thin slices and dehydrate. Some of us may use a dehydrator tray, your oven or the sun. Once dry, you can crush the pieces and grind them by hand, with a blender, or food processor until powdered. I like to keep my turmeric and ginger powder pure. I simply mix in other spices as I’m cooking or making drinks but if you’d like to really make your powdered spice interesting, you can add other dried spices like ground thyme leaves, basil and dried peppers. You can store your freshly made spice in a mason jar in your kitchen cabinet. It’ll take years to expire and does not need to remain refrigerated. It’s also a terrific gift idea I you’re not the one hosting thanksgiving dinner this year.
OTHER USES

Zedoary produces a chemical we call curcumin that is used in medicine and coloring for health, cosmetic and artistic purposes. Curcuma plants are also becoming a more widely accepted way of treating skin conditions like acne, rashes or dry skin. I stumbled upon this article that included recipes for a turmeric face mask for both dry and oily skin types that I hope you guys find enlightening and useful. I’ve tweaked it to add a little activated charcoal and aloe for my skin treatment and it works! White turmeric is also an excellent alternative to the golden turmeric the recipe calls for because it doesn’t stain my nails. Zedoary oil can also be used in perfumes, aromatherapy,  massages and skin treatments and as I said, to aid in reestablishing healthy, supple skin.

ZEDOARY: BENEFITS

White turmeric has been used in treating arthritis, heartburn, joint pain, stomach pain, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, bypass surgery, hemorrhage, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, infections, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gallbladder disorders, diabetes, water retention, worms, high cholesterol, skin inflammation from radiation treatment, and fatigue. It has also been applied for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, inflammation, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, itchy skin, topical pain, ringworm, sprains and swellings, bruising, leech bites, eye infections, acne, inflammatory skin conditions and skin sores, soreness inside of the mouth, infected wounds, gum disease and some cancers. Share your thoughts on health with your health care provider. I was fortunate to have one who was and still is a strong believer in Mother Nature’s ability to heal without the side-effects that medication can bring in the trunk. I hope your efforts prove just as fruitful. Happy gardening!

WHITE TURMERIC: ZEDOARY FLOWER

CACAO: THE TRUTH ABOUT CHOCOLATE

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Aaaahhhh chocolate! It’s one of my

favorite subjects because we’ve had a pretty interesting relationship – chocolate and I – so where do I begin? Jamaicans have a proverb that goes,"cow neva kno di yussa ‘im tail til butcha chappi ahf"which, when translated, means"the cow is never aware of the purpose of it’s tail until the butcher chops it off."It’s basically a warning to enjoy and appreciate the little things in our lives; search for the good, beneficial qualities in the objects, resources and people we have access to that we can so easily abhor sometimes. There may be a day when you no longer have it and you wouldn’t want to wait for that unfortunate day to begin to show an understanding of the object’s purpose and and appreciate what you no longer have. That’s sort of what happened with chocolate and I.
Unfortunately, that day did come for me. It was the day I moved to New York in mid-September. What was I thinking? A young, tropical flower found herself living on the Hudson River at the cusp of Fall overnight. I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous articles how horrifying it was so we won’t be rehashing the nightmare of the culture and climate shock this time around. Today, we’re going to explore one of the greatest treasures that sat right under my nose throughout my childhood and I didn’t even really know it – CHOCOLATE!

Now, don’t get me wrong. As a child, I took advantage of the cacao fruit in my own way. The skin is referred to as a shell because it’s just so hard and thick. The average man cannot break it with his bare hands unless he slams it against a hard surface. Don’t you find it to be that way with most of natures’ incredible treasures – the sweeter and more addictive the fruit inside, the harder the shell/skin? Well, I think there’s merit to that statement and the cacao fruit is a great example.

I (and most of my cousins) spent most of my breaks from school at my grandparents’ house or the family home. Needless to say, our summers and Christmases were always eventful and memorable. We were free to visit any of the neighbors along our street so long as we didn’t venture too far from the home. The community was one family that way. One of these neighbors had a couple magnificent cacao trees right on the edge of the fence that bordered their front-yard. In fact, it was the house next door! They also had a giant Jamaican almond tree on the other side of the front-yard that gave shade to the whole area when you needed a cool-down from the hot Jamaican climate but I digress. (That’s a whole other article right there.) We had the neighbors permission to pick and eat to our heart’s content. Let me confess that my heart was always content when mom came to pick me up at the end of Summer.
If you’ve never enjoyed the process of freeing some cocoa seeds from that deliciously sweet, creamy-white, juicy pulp in which they’re encased then you haven’t really tasted unadulterated decadence! Still, the saddest thing about growing up oblivious to the fact that you’re surrounded by a vast collection of natural treasures is that you never really get to appreciate them until you no longer have access. As children, we would eat the fruit but discard the seeds. They’d disappear into the grass, soon to be forgotten under treading, playful feet.
Except for cocoa farmers themselves, the average countryman didn’t save his cacao seeds for fermentation when I was growing up. We would purchase from the market, natural chocolate sticks to be grated and brewed with fresh, whole milk and nutmeg for morning cups of hot chocolate that were simply unmatched. We consumed it because we liked it. I mean, what’s not to like? However, I never fully understood the benefits of cacao until I became an adult and did my own research on the plant and I’m excited to share some of that knowledge with you!

VERSATILE MEADOW GARLIC: ALLIUM CANADENSE

ALLIUM CANADENSE MEADOW CANADIAN GARLIC MY EXOTIC SECRETS
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WHAT IS AN ALLIUM, YOU ASK?

Allium is the family to which scallion, onion, chives (onion and garlic), ramsons, shallots and leeks belong. They’re short, bulbous plants the yield hollow, straight leaves that give the plants a grass-like appearance. If left to flower they also produce gorgeous pom-poms of varying colors that are also fragrant and often reminiscent of bachelor buttons which makes them excellent ornamentals. In some varieties, flowers emerge from these pompoms in a chandelier-like fashion. They’re gorgeous!  They’re not invasive and they thrive in small spaces so they’re good choices for gardens with a small bed, pot or edging. Allium also serve a purpose in the garden. They’re natural insect and pest repellent because of their strong garlic or onion scent.

ALLIUM CANADENSE MEADOW CANADIAN GARLIC MY EXOTIC SECRETS

ALLIUM IN THE JAMAICAN HOME

Edible alliums are essential to Jamaican cuisine. We love the flavors they emit. They’re unique and prized and cannot be mimicked by any other family known to mankind. Mark my words, there isn’t a Jamaican kitchen without scallions, garlic or onions at the ready. Garlic chives are especially commonly cultivated among Jamaican farmers. Our people have creative ways of incorporating garlic in dishes that will caress your taste buds and blow your mind! However, the chives we’re about to dissect is not common in Jamaica. Meadow chives (also known as meadow onions, wild garlic, wild onion, Canadian onion, Canadian garlic) bear similar leaves to the garlic and purple onion chives most of us are familiar with. If you’re a plant lover with a 2-inch pot, and a tiny square box for an apartment, this plant is perfect for you!

 

 

ALLIUM CANADENSE: USES

 

Like most allium, meadow garlicALLIUM CANADENSE MEADOW CANADIAN GARLIC MY EXOTIC SECRETS plants are easy to grow, low maintenance, high yielding plants that thrive in a tight space and are easy to control and contain. They serve several purposes. The plants themselves don’t grow to be taller than about 18 inches. They are interesting to look at with tall, thin, straight, vivid green leaves and gorgeous, pink to purple pompoms. These pompoms full of seeds, open up to release fountains of fragrant little flowers. The whole ensemble averages an inch in diameter. They’re beautiful ornamentals and you don’t have to worry about pests being interested in eating down your chives. Because of their strong onion flavor, the plants are natural insect and pest repellents. You can use your Canadian onion or any edible allium to border your garden to deter pests and critters. We use them to border the perimeter of our greenhouse. To date, we haven’t had any visits from critters with sticky fingers.

 

CULLINARY USES OF MEADOW GARLIC

The last and most obvious ALLIUM CANADENSE MEADOW CANADIAN GARLIC MY EXOTIC SECRETSof the noteworthy uses for this versatile plant is culinary. The flavor can make such a big difference is your soups, salads, meats, fish, rice, pasta, sandwich, sauces, biscuit, buns, bread and other dishes. You can blend them into your sauces, especially when preparing fish and meats. Try this easy meat marinade recipe with a dash of Caribbean flavor that we’ve shared with you. If you think that’s amazing, wait until you know how beneficial this can be for your body! Try to experiment with the flavors of all the allium in your garden by swapping some of the more common onion varieties out in your recipes.

 

ALLIUM: HEALTH BENEFITS

If you’re one of those expecting mothers who think you need to be chowing on oranges and pills to ensure adequate intake of folate, firstly congratulations! Secondly, allium plants are excellent sources of natural folic acid. 100g of fresh leaves is just 30 calories! That 30 calories is jam packed with many flavonoid antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals like pyridoxine, folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, carotenes, zeaxanthin, lutein, and so much more. Together, they work to strengthen the immune system and protect the body from different types of cancer.

ALLIUM CANADENSE MEADOW CANADIAN GARLIC MY EXOTIC SECRETS

ALLIUM PROTECTS YOUR HEART & BRAIN

Allicin decreases blood vessel stiffness by release of nitric oxide and brings a reduction in the total blood pressure. It inhibits platelet clot formation and has fibrinolytic action in the blood vessels which helps decrease an overall risk of coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular diseases, and stroke. It reduces the production of bad cholesterol and makes your liver very happy. They’re also found to have strong antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

 

ALLIUM & BONE HEALTH

Just 70 grams of allium provides the daily recommended intake of Vitamin K, which has a potential role in bone health by promoting bone formation and strengthening activity. Adequate vitamin K levels in the diet help limit neuronal damage in the brain whichALLIUM CANADENSE MEADOW CANADIAN GARLIC MY EXOTIC SECRETS shows an established role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Handling allium in general, may result in mild irritation to skin, mucosa, and eyes but to a greater extent with other members like an actual onion. A gas known as allyl sulfide is released while chopping or slicing them. As always, you’re encouraged to experiment with your dishes and enjoy the ride. Feel free to share your thoughts or questions below.