With turmeric being one of the newest superfood crazes, we had to ask – is mainstream America really ready to embrace this miracle food? “Food Adventurers” may know turmeric as an orange powder they add to curry, but outside of that, they may be scratching their heads. We’ve recently noticed many super drinks and smoothies that use this powerful substance, while chefs sneak it into unexpected dishes. What is going on with this new orange crush?
Turmeric is actually a rhizome in the ginger family. It looks like a bumpy ginger root with a striking, deep orange color on the inside. It is native to the warm weather parts of southern Asia – think India, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan – who all use it for curries, dying, and yes, even medicine. In cooking, turmeric roots are sometimes used fresh – like ginger root – and are sometimes boiled, dried in hot ovens, then ground into a deep orange-yellow powder that many of us are familiar with.
Recently, Google published the following: “While the concept of functional foods has been around for decades, interest in turmeric … is the breakout star, with searches growing 300% over the last five years.” 2016 GoogleFoodTrends
Surprising, turmeric on its own is not a taste powerhouse. It is a bitter, chalky, mildly aromatic spice that needs to be mixed with other ingredients to make it pop. In some cultures, it’s used as a cheap substitute for saffron, and in many dishes, it’s used for color more than flavor (think some of your favorite natural energy drinks, among other things). According to Google, top searches included “powder,” “smoothie,” “recipe,” and “drink.” The top YouTube videos were tea and “golden milk” – a warm concoction of turmeric, peppercorn, coconut milk and ginger — kind of like sipping curry sauce, if that’s up your alley.
So why the obsession, and why now? As many consumers choose to sidestep the big pharma industry and modern medicine, turmeric pops up as a natural solution for an astounding number of conditions– no wonder there is a scramble to understand how to consume more of it! Curcumin, a healing compound found in turmeric, is positioned as a clean alternative for a wide range of ailments including headaches, arthritis, inflammation, and even depression.
“True Believers” – a small, but highly influential percentage of the population consisting of young, educated advocates of healthy eating and natural solutions – seem to be driving the turmeric trend. Early adopters of kale, quinoa and juicing, they are the likely group searching for new ways to get their fix.
In response, health-minded, innovative chefs are finding new dishes and ways to serve this wonder food, and forward-looking tea, juice and smoothie restaurants and retailers are mixing and blending their way to turmeric heaven.
But for mainstream America, turmeric has a way to go before it becomes a go-to food. It needs to turn the corner from a “should have” to a “want to have” food with taste as the lynchpin to mainstream success. We look forward to new products and recipes that help make it happen for this amazing food.