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Powerful and popular – Turmeric vs Saffron

IT IS VERY DIFFICULT to distinguish turmeric from saffron because of the similar bright yellow colour. However, do not be fooled as turmeric and saffron are two different plants.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa), belonging to the ginger family, is a root plant. It has a golden colour which gives curry powder its visual appearance and it is very popular for its medicinal properties.

Turmeric contains compounds called ‘curcuminoids’ (curcumin) which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant. Further research conducted suggests that curcumin is linked to improved brain function, lower risk of heart diseases and can even be useful in the control of depression and in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Turmeric is inexpensive and can be found at the local markets in Trinidad.

Saffron (Crocus sativus), on the other hand, is very expensive. Saffron spice is produced from the dried stigmas of the plant’s flower. The production of the spice is very labour intensive because it is cultivated and harvested manually.

The spice is therefore costly because it can take up to 75,000 saffron blossoms to produce one pound of saffron spice. Its rich yellow colour is widely used as food colouring and flavour agents in gourmet meals.

Saffron, just like turmeric, has many medicinal properties. It is used for asthma, insomnia and depression. Saffron aids in the prevention of cancer, heart diseases and psoriasis. Its extracts are utilised for high-end perfumes and fabrics. Saffron is propagated throughout Eurasia.

Turmeric can be mistaken for saffron but there is no spice quite like saffron. You can grow your own turmeric at home and saffron can be purchased online or when travelling.

Tips for growing your own turmeric:

* Break or cut a large turmeric rhizome into a small piece that has two or three buds.

* Fill 14- to 18-inch-wide pots (for each six- to eight-inch root) that are at least 12 inches deep and provide good drainage with rich, moist, organic soil to one or two inches below the rim, depending on the rhizome’s size.

* Place the rhizome so that the buds are facing upward, not downward, below the surface of the soil by two to four inches.

* Place pots/plants in an area exposed to sunlight, partial shade is also fine.

* Water the plantings and keep the soil moist. Water every other day and ensure that they don’t sit in soggy soil.

* Use a precautionary organic insecticide for mites. After ten months, uproot the plant and harvest the turmeric.

Send questions to rayannaboodram@hotmail.com.