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Curcuma (Turmeric)


Dried Turmeric Root
Turmeric (Curcuma longa/C. domestica), also known as Curcuma, Indian Saffron, Indian Yellow Root (not to be focused with American "Yellowroot", which is also sometimes called "Indian Turmeric" but is actually Hydrastis canadensis) or Amomoum Curcuma is a note not often found in Western perfumery, but it has such an important role in herbal medicine (particularly Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine), and it's hard to imagine many cuisines without its earthy flavour and bright yellow colour. All in all, turmeric's distinctive aroma is worth exploring on this blog.

Guess the plant! #plantriddle
The plant belongs to the ginger, galangal and cardamom family, and like all of these, it has beautiful foliage and showy red-pink flowers that are arranged in an inflorescence, that grow wild in the jungles of Southeast Asia - and where cultivated, can make a garden look lusciously tropical. It can even grow in my home village - although with the nasty eastern winds that blow here many days feel bone dry here and the land is particularly parched this fall, many tropical plants and trees can grow here and produce delicious fruit and fragrant flowers. It does get a bit too cold in the winter, so it may be better for it to grow in a potted plant and be brought into a hothouse during the cooler months (November through March) and of course it will require plenty of watering to make up for the lack of monsoons in our region. I'm certainly going to add it to my little perfumer's botanical garden that I'm dreaming up these days...

#hint: Guess the plant! #plantriddle

Constituents: 
Turmeric is known for its high content of vitamin C and is rich in minerals [1]. It is especially valued for its effective anti-inflammatory properties of its unique constituent curcumin (diferuloylmethane), which also provides its distinctve  deep golden-yellow colour. A word of caution: watch out for turmeric that has an orange-red colour (or more of a red hue after coming into contact with liquid) - it is probably adulterated with lead oxide (!), and some turmeric powders are mixed with metanil yellow - AKA acid yellow 36, even though both are toxic and illegal.

Besides curcumin, turmeric contains two other curcuminoids: demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin, as well as the constituents turmerone, atlantone, and zingiberene, which gives it an earthy, mellow, warm flavour.

Southern Seas Trading Co. in Vancouver sells a turmeric powder that claims to have 5% curcumin, and is really incomparable to the what you'd commonly find on the spice racks in most supermarkets or even in the souks. Too often, turmeric powder has a light yellow, almost sulfur-like colour, and has very little aroma, and taste almost like dust. That is usually a sign that it is probably too old. This is true, by the way, to many spices - if they've lost their vibrancy and "bite", they should be replaced by a fresh batch that has the characteristics you're after. Otherwise - what is the point of adding spices in the first place?!

Turmeric essential oil is clear orange-amber or "a yellowy-orange liquor with a faint blue fluorescence and a fresh spicy-woody odour" [1] with about 60% turmerone, ar-turmerone, atlantone, zingiberone, channel, borneo, sabinene, phellandrene and more. It's important to note that turmerone is a ketone, and is "moderately toxic and irritant in high concentration. Possible sensitization problems". [1]. Becomes semi-viscous over time.

turmeric

Turmeric as a dye and food colouring:
You've probably ate turmeric without even knowing it in your mustard paste and cucumber pickles (it is used to mask the unsightly fading that is inevitable on pickles that were sitting on the shelf too long). It also gives cauliflower pickles an exotic colour, and brings out the best in mango chutneys and pickles.

Additionally, turmeric can be used as a dye for clothing, although it has very poor lightfast qualities (it fades easily). The saffron-coloured robes that Buddhist monks wear are customarily dyed with turmeric powder. Turmeric is also used in various pastes and unguents that are used in religious rituals to decorate the buddha sculptures and mark the place of the "third eye".

Turmeric in savoury dishes:
In areas where turmeric is a native, fresh leaves are also used to wrap food with and impart their unique flavour to the dish. But in most of the world, it is the dried rhizomes (often referred to as "roots") that are used. In this form, turmeric found its way first through the spice caravans into Arabic cuisine, North Africa and Europe - and later on also to the Americas who in return contributed the heat of chilli peppers to spice blends and cooking traditions the world over.

It's hard to recall many East Indian dishes without turmeric, and indeed you'll find this amount or another in countless East Indian recipes, and in dishes alongside garam masala blends and also in the various blends that are called "curry powder" (mostly these are Western interpretations of various Southeast Asian spice blends) where it is mixed with fenugreek, cumin, coriander seed, and chilli pepper. Other ingredients are used to give it nuances and distinctive style that is usually proprietary, i.e.: dry ginger roots, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, asafoetida, various peppers (long, black...), cardamom (green or black), mustard, and more. Turmeric can be found in other spice blends, such as Ras El Hanout, hawaij (a Yemeni spice mixed usually created with turmeric, cumin, black pepper and cardamom - and in more complex styles also may include cloves, caraway, coriander, fenugreek, etc.).

Turmeric is an essential component of the famous Thai Massaman curry (Muslim-inspired curry), which gives it both its golden colour and mild, earthy note that complements beautifully vegetables such as cauliflower and potato. It is used to colour and flavour banh xao (Vietnamese savoury rice-flour crepes).

Cooking with fresh turmeric is one of the most sensually satisfying culinary encounters, taking off the dusty aspect of working with the ground, dried herb. I was fortunate to procure the mango-coloured root that was at the same exotic produce store I mentioned earlier in Granville Island at the time. The ones I've seen grown in Israel are pale in comparison, but still I recommend experimenting with them. they can be grated as they are to add to curry pastes, or peeled and minced or sliced and be added to stews, soups and even teas. Some swear it is even more effective than ginger in chasing away the season's flu.

TurmericFresh

Turmeric in sweets, confections and pastries: 
Turmeric leaves are used in preparations of sweets from the west coasts of India called patoleo, patoley or Pan Mori - turmeric-scented cakes of rice and grated coconut. These are offered to several Hindu feminine deities (Parvati, Ganesh) and are eaten in Hindu feasts, India's Independence Day (August 15) and also the Assumption of Mary which falls on the same day and is celebrated by the Catholics in the region.

The Lebanese semolina cake Sfouf has an interesting play on savoury and sweet, and imaginative playful texture. Its fine semolina dough is highly fragrant with powdered turmeric rhizome and incorporates savoury fenugreek seeds and decorated with pine nuts. And if this isn't making you curious yet - it is also  layered with tahini (sesame paste) on the bottom and drenched in honey syrup on the top, creating by default a layer of halva at the base.

Another interesting East-Meets-West fusion I've discovered in the souk of Akko, was no other than a very Eastern-European pastry of poppy seed roll, in which the sweet yeast dough was coloured and flavoured with turmeric. After many searches for a poppy seed roll that will satisfy our homesickness (there was a killer poppyseed roll in non other than the seemingly generic Maple Leaf bakery on Davie Street) - this is the closest thing to what we were after, and also great on its own right.

Turmeric in Flavouring Work:
Turmeric essential oil has rather limited use as a favouring agent, because the powder is usually used. Turmeric oil is bitter and slightly pungent, except in extreme dilutions.
The Japanese turmeric has a flavour that is more spicy, bitter and slightly burning.

Turmeric in Folk Medicine:
Turmeric was used by the Jews of India ground turmeric into powder and made a medicinal porridge with sugar to treat diarrhea. Yemeni Jews used curcuma to treat jaundice, headaches stomach aches and digestive complaints. Moroccan Jews made a remedy for jaundice by mixing parts of the plant with honey and consuming it. Persian Jews prepared a paste for massaging the feet by mixing curcuma powder with Arak (an anise liquor). The Jews of Babylon believed that eating dishes heavily seasonsed with curcuma will lift the spirits of anyone who is suffering from depression. [2]

Turmeric in Herbal Medicine and Aromatherapy: 
Used for treatment of liver disease, stomach ulcers. For gustatory and digestive disturbances, brew 1 tsp of turmeric powder in boiled water for 5 minutes and sweeten with honey or sugar. For treatment of boils and severe warts, a paste of 50 g of turmeric powder blended with 15 mL (3 Tbs) of olive oil can be spread on the affected area.

Turmeric oil is used to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism as well muscular aches and pains. It is also helpful in anorexia, liver convention and sluggish digestion.

Tuberose Massaman

Odour Profile: 
Earthy, mineral, vibrant, subtle, spicy, fresh, with strong association to baked vegetables and potato and cauliflower curries. Has a certain sourness to it, tangy with hints of sweet orange, ginger and galangal notes. Root-like qualities, with some woody notes and slightly green note (this aspect has reminiscence to the sesame plant).

Japanese turmeric oil is more warm, dry-woody, powdery, camphoreous and with a slightly pepper-spicy note that brings to mind Atlas cedar wood [3].

Turmeric in Perfumery:
Turmeric is an exotic and unusual note that can be used in Oriental fragrances and imaginative Chypre fragrances. It works particularly well with Atlas cedar wood, rose, tuberose, ylang ylang, elecampane, violet, sandalwood, labdanum, orris resin, clary sage, mimosa, cassie, ginger, galangal, ginger lily, saffron and other spices, as well as ionones, musks,  heliotropine, etc [3]

As mentioned earlier, the use of turmeric is rather limited. Aside from my own work with it, I can't recall smelling it in too many perfumes, and I can only guess it may be a note in Santal de Mysore, as well as some natural perfumes I've experienced such as the now defunct Rose by Scent Systems and Aftelier's Parfum de Maroc. I've incorporated it in successfully in my "Massaman Curry" accord, which I've used in Tuberose Massaman OOAK perfume. There is also a hint of turmeric in another OOAK perfume titled "Curry Rose". I got to admit it worked well with these florals, echoing the buttery mystery of tuberose that is underlined but tuberous moistness; and also giving an earthiness for the rose to grow on.
Some of you may have also experienced some of my trials for an oud perfume that includes copious amounts of it - Assam Oud. In the latter, I've been greatly struggling with finding the balance between the elements, and the turmeric seemed to create a problem - constantly bringing out a sourness from the tagetes (marigold) which I was not fond of. It was a frustrating experience, but not one I am giving up on. There will be an Assam Oud perfume eventually for more of you to enjoy, and I am determined to find a way for the turmeric to work in there. There simply is something haunting and earthy about turmeric that I really want to mingle with agarwood's musty earthiness.

[1] Lawless, Julia, "The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils",  Elements Books, Australia, 1992, pp. 182-183
[2] Krispil, Nissim "Medicinal Plants in Israel and Throughout The World - The Complete Guide", Hed Artzi, Or Yehuda, Israel 2000, p. 132.
[3] Arctander, Steffen, "Perfume and Flavour Materials of Natural Origin", Allured Publishing, 1994, pp. 203-205

Bitter Orangecello

The aftermath of homemade cointreau liquor making #bitterorange #yurtlife

I'm making a homemade liqueur out of my prematurely-picked bitter oranges, and while it's aging,  I'm taking a look around at recipes and ideas for which "secret ingredients" to add to the mix. There are many liqueurs that use bitter orange, such as Curacao, Triple-sec, Grand Marnier and Cointreau. Because I'm using unripe oranges, the aroma profile is more vibrant and less sickeningly sweet. I will add sugar in the end, but I want the aroma to be very fresh and invigorating and want to add an element of surprise to this concoction, yet without taking away from the purity of the oranges. Tomorrow is the 7th day of maceration, and then I will add the sugar and let it mature for another week. I think tomorrow I will add a sprig of rosemary to the mix, and then discard it as soon as I add the sugar. Rosemary can be very overpowering. I might also pick a few leaves off the tree and add more of a petitgrain aroma. I'm trying hard to hold back from adding half a vanilla pod, and will save it for when the oranges are very ripe and luscious, to give it more of a velvety feel.

Pruning the Orchard

Pruning my bitter orange trees

My mini fruit orchard has been sitting still for 20 years without proper care, and the wild foundation of the grafted citrus has simply taken over, turning all the trees except the grapefruit into a bitter orange tree. From a perfumer's point of view there is no harm in that, but I'd like to have some culinary variety in my village life, and food-wise, there is very little that can be done with bitter oranges.

As I begin to work on my little perfumer's botanical garden near my cottage, I had no choice but to do massive pruning on these trees, and leave only the largest bitter orange tree as is. One had 2 remaining branches of the original lemon; and another will be later on grafted to yield sweet, juicy tangerines. I also would like to plant a lime and a citron tree while I'm at it, but we'll see how much space there is for my rather long wish list of fruit trees. Scattered among this little orchard there will also be bulb flowers, fragrant bushes and other surprises.

Green bitter oranges

After all the pruning, we were left with a copious amount of unripe bitter oranges. Their smell is heavenly - much more floral and less flat than sweet oranges. So I've decided to peel their aromatic zest and macerate in 100 proof vodka (50% alcohol), and make my own homemade version of Cointreau liquor. Of course this is only the inspiration. I will really play with ingredients I have around and macerate some other herbs and maybe also vanilla to add more depth and interest to the vibrant orange peel.

Autumn Aromas & Fall Flavours - The Western Galilee Edition

Rocky and wild #betzetbeach #perfumeryonthemove

I'm emerging from what has been one of the most challenging months of my life (and this is pretty much what I've been experiencing with every month since May of last year). Three days ago, we moved into my mom's yurt (a sort of a not-so-temporary dwelling originating in Mongolia) and after one day of total hell (predictable with major change with anyone, but particularly for autistic people) my daughter is adjusting surprisingly well to the new arrangement. So to break the doom and gloom of silence that's been hovering over this blog, I've decided to assemble an illustrated collage of scents that I've been enjoying since arriving here in Israel. It's those little things that keep me going and bring comfort in the midst of total chaos and displacement.

And what better place to begin than the beach? It's the one and only constant in our lives since leaving Vancouver (besides basic activities such as brushing teeth and eating breakfast). The north coast of Israel is fascinating with wild life and the terrain is not as monotonously sandy as the south (although this has its charm as well). Lagoons, rocks and  ancient port cities and fishing villages lace the shores, as well as remains of an ancient factory for red dye from certain sea snails.  Beach culture here is also vibrant and goes year around, with diving and surfing bringing in people who would normally complain that the water is too cold in the winter.

Beach lily on the dunes
And as if the beach is not wonderful enough just for its warm, azure blue water - there are also some amazing wild plants growing near it. These wild beach lilies are almost as large as the madonna lilies, and just as fragrant. But their aroma is a little different - a sultry mix of salicilates (which are typical for lilies, as well as present in ylang ylang) and hyacinth's heady green. Add to that the fact warmth from the Mediterranean sun, which beats the dewiness out of it completely - and you get a scent of slightly-cooked bulb flowers.


Carissa macrocarpa
Carissa (AKA Natal Plum) is another beach phenomenon, but cultivated. It can be found as a hedge plant in many coastal cities here. This plant originates in South Africa, where its oblong, bright red fruit provides an important source of food (I personally find it too astringent). The flower is what I'm more fond of, as it has shape like frangipani or tiare, and a smell that is gardenia-like, but more subtle.

Anona #custardfruit #anona #beach #picnic
I've dedicated an entire post to guavas,  so I won't mention them again. But they are not the only remarkable fruit this season. Anona (AKA cherimoya, custard fruit or custard apple) are lovely-tasting fruit that look oddly like pine cones (especially after they get overripe and their peel hardens and completely blackens). The inside flesh has a flaky structure, similar to cooked fish, but melts in the mouth like custard. The aroma is very mild and appealing. This fruit is quite expensive, and always brings me fond memories of when my daughter was born, because my mom brought me many of them as a treat.

Quisqualis indica אלמון הודי. Smells like fragrant King Jade oolong.
Quisqualis indica (AKA Chinese Honeysuckle or Rangoon Creeper) greets you as you enter the veranda at my brother's house. Incidentally, this is a similar scenario to the entrance at his in-laws home. The scent is intoxicating, especially at night. Floral (vaguely jasmine-smabac-like) and heady but not overwhelmingly so, as it is balanced with green notes and overall smells like a good oolong tea, xing qin to be exact (also called King Jade).

#Jasmine
Jasmine blossoms are alive and well in this part of the world, and early morning is the best time to enjoy them. By night time most of their scent has evaporated in the sun. Sitting next to one of these bushes, with or without a cup of herbal tea (coming soon) is a most delightful way to start the day and remind me why I came here. I've been enjoying the ones near my brother's home (we've stayer with him for a month), and my own bush, planted 20 years ago, is still alive and well. There are also jasmine sambac bushes growing on my mom's property. What's fantastic is that they have no problem surviving the winters here, and can grow to be impressively large bushes with thick trunks, and they bloom many times throughout the year.

#Lemongrass #light
Fragrant herbs, especially lemon scented ones, are one of the things I missed the most about my home village. Nothing compares the taste of freshly brewed tisane from lemon verbena and lemon grass that you've just picked from the garden a few minutes ago. The flavour is so full of life and so refreshing. We like to open and close each day with this brew, sit down with family and relax; and also that's how we greet most visitors. For out of owners this is the epitome of luxury.

#tobacco #leaf #curing. #tarshiha
In one of my visits to the nearby town of Tarshiha, I spotted a tobacco curing joint on the roof of one of the houses. Tobacco leaves are usually harvested at the end of the summer, and can be left to cure outdoors in this climate, as the first rains won't begin till October (and sometimes even later). The scent of tobacco leaves wafted through the cobblestone lanes and many leaves that fell of the clusters on the roof could be found on the ground.
Syrian maple #fall #autumn
These are leaves of Syrian maple that I spotted in a creek nearby. They don't have any notable scent, but are significant in a symbolic way, because the season is called fall, after all. Likewise, the acorns pictured below are not particularly fragrant, but illustrious of the season's unique sights.

Acorns בלוטים
The acorns, I'm told, can be roasted and ground into a flour and used as a source of food. I'm going to try it this year... And serve acorn pudding from teeny tiny acorn cups. 

שיח אברהם/ירנך Abraham's bush (smells like #Indigo perfume( https://ayalamoriel.com/products/indigo
The flowers of Vitex agnus-castus AKA Abraham's Bush, Abraham's Balm or Yarnakh, appear in clusters like lilac, only that they are pointing upwards. They have a distinctive perfume that I can't describe. The best way to experience it outside the wild habitat is uncork a vial of my Indigo perfume.
Green mandarin #greenmandarin #autumnaromas #fallflavours
The first mandarins are ripe from the inside but still green on the outside. Nostalgic scent for me, as we'd pack them for the first days of school and they marked not only the beginning of the new school year, but also the many citrus fruit that will continue to ripen and provide us with vitamin C throughout the abrupt and rather stormy Israeli winter.

#מסיק #oliveharvest

The olive harvest season is now, and the rain wouldn't arrive to wash the dust off the olives. It was a very weak year for this crop, and many families including mine decided to not even bother picking them. My mom insisted and we helped her pluck enough olives to fill two sacks, which surprisingly yielded an entire can of oil (probably around 2 gallons). The experience was a tactile torture as there is nothing I hate more than chalky dust all over my fingers, toes and clothes. The first rain finally arrived in a short but violent outburst first thing in the morning of November 1st, so maybe now I will be more inclined to pick the remaining olives. I much prefer the smell of petrichor and olive foliage to that of dust accompanied by scorching sun.


Space

Space

When someone moves away, they leave a space behind them. Like a gaping hole of a plucked tooth. But it will quickly fill up: their old apartment will be occupied with new tenants, their friends will find new friends to do similar things with, or move on to new activities altogether...
Meanwhile in the new country, everyone will need to squeeze elbows to make new room for the new people. In my case, I had to give notice to my tenants to leave so that I can renovate my home (much needed after nearly twenty years of absence), take up a room in my brother's home, and soon I'll be also practically kicking my mom's other tenant in her yurt. It feels rather awkward to create so many shifts and changes in my surrounding and be a burden on everyone - especially since usually I am the one who hoses and helps people in my community.

The challenges of moving back to Israel are many and countless and only after coming here I've learned that actually being an ex-pat coming back "home" is a much more shocking and devastating experience than moving to a new country altogether. That is certainly my experience. There's the mourning of the life lost in the previous country; and the shock of coming to a place I've expected to be familiar, only to discover that really is even stranger than a completely new place. People I thought of as close and familiar don't seem that way anymore. People who weren't here when I built this village (my family is among the founders, pioneers so to speak) don't even know who I am now.  The language tastes strange in my mouth, though I find it to be extremely satisfying to express my frustrations in it with slang that I would have never used when I grew up here.

On the bright side: I haven't shed a tear in four days, which is a huge accomplishment; healthcare is much better here (and my daughter is already receiving it for free). The bureaucracy hurdles that seemed unresolvable and were simply maddening to me before the 3-weeks of high-holiday craze (which put any normal life to a halt in this country) surprisingly resolved all on their own while I was doing nothing about it.

Space
On the even brighter side: that haunted house (pictured above) is in the advanced planning stages for renovations, which will commence in less than two weeks. They will include adding a new, separate room for my perfume studio and school. Also the wild trees I've built my house near have grown to be amazingly beautiful and give awesome shade, which is much needed in this climate, and so are the trees I've planted around it twenty years ago. I am really enjoying the process of planning what to plant around it and how to turn the wild habitat around the house into a fragrant botanical garden that I can incorporate in my teaching and perfuming.
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