September has come, but the taste of patolleo sweet dish (a rice paste, grated coconut and coconut jaggery, steamed in a wrap of turmeric leaf) lingers on. The turmeric leaf wrap gives the patolleo a distinctive colour, flavour and aroma.
There is a turmeric variety with a mango flavour, that is locally known as ambe-halad. It is also edible and has medicinal properties.
More recently, the relatives of turmeric have made their appearance as ornamental flower plants in home gardens.
REASONS TO LOVE TURMERIC
Turmeric has long been a traditional antiseptic, skin care and wellness item in India, including Goa, even in the colonial era spanning 451 years. Starting with the Konnsachem Fest and continuing through the Ganesh Chaturthi, turmeric is a part of our culture, religion and traditions. Even weddings are preceded by haldi and ros, or anointing of the bride with turmeric paste and coconut milk.
We, Goans, use turmeric in our curry, or umonn, whether with prawns, fish or vegetables. Turmeric is also an important ingredient of our Prawn Caldinha with ladyfinger. No one stops to think that turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The curries taste so good!
Jokes aside, curcumin is said to help overcome symptoms of depression. It may be the reason why the new groom is offered a glass of hot milk with turmeric on the first night! Turmeric leaves are also added to Rice Kheer and Methiamchi Pez (made of fenugreek) sweet dishes that are post-partum delicacies.
There has never been a more spirited fight by India for a patent internationally than the one for turmeric, Curcuma longa. Haldi or turmeric is a part of ayurvedic treatments as well as our ethno-medicine in India.
The use of turmeric is reported to prevent Alzheimers and heart diseases. Recent studies indicate that the use of turmeric may reduce the incidence of cancer. It is reason enough to eat patolleo round the year!
Turmeric is propagated by planting pieces of the underground stem, that is modified to look like a root. Botanists call it rhizome, as in ginger, and it is self-perpetuating if left in the ground.
At the Patoienchem Fest three years ago, the last one with Fr Santana Carvalho alive to drum up local support in Socorro village, sprouted turmeric rhizomes were given as takeaways for us to plant in home gardens and make patolleos with home-grown turmeric leaves in the years to follow. It has served the purpose during the Covid pandemic, when social distancing became the norm and the fests went into hibernation.
Now, turmeric cultivation has reached a commercial scale. Named varieties like Pragati, Pratibha and Suvarna are being grown on acres of land, harvested, processed and powdered in Goa. Raised beds of soil, about a metre wide and of convenient lengths, with a half metre wide trough along the length for irrigation and as a path is ideal. It is ready in about eight months. Let us spice our lives and spread the flavour of our culture and traditions with turmeric.
The author is the former Chairman of the GCCI Agriculture Committee, CEO of Planter's Choice Pvt Ltd, Additional Director of OFAI and Garden Superintendent of Goa University, and has edited 18 books for Goa & Konkan