Lakadong turmeric: Meghalaya's magic spice with numerous benefits

Is Lakadong turmeric Meghalaya's best kept secret? Cultivated in the alluvial valleys of Lakadong in Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya Lakadong turmeric is said to be 3 times more potent than the regular turmeric.

The cultivation Cultivated in the valley near the confluence of rivers Myntang and Mynriang, the land is flanked by dense evergreen growth. The process of cultivation is very traditional. Women dressed in their colourful ‘Jainkyrshah’ (Khasi aprons) leave their homes and head to Lakadong Turmeric fields carrying ‘Khohs’ (Conical Bamboo Baskets) on their backs which carries ‘Wait’ (a hooked blade) and ‘Moh Khiew’ (a spade) to sow Lakadong turmeric. They plough the fields and make rows of beds where 3 to 4 seed rhizomes are sowed into each row. The entire farming is traditional and no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used. In fact the black alluvial soil is so fertile that there's no need for fertilizer. As the rains set in, it's only a matter of a month when the seeds start to sprout. As it requires sufficient rainfall, through the monsoon months the Lakadong grows its stems into green, long, and tall sharp leaves. In December, the rhizomes are carefully dug out, cleaned with fresh water and sun dried to produce Lakadong.

What makes it so special? Turmeric is native to India and has been an intrinsic part of Siddha, Unani, Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicines. It has been used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. Not just food, considered sacred it has been part of rituals, traditions and even beauty regimens. From warding off evil eye, to being part of wedding rituals and festivals to being used in Poojas and for butane, Indian culture and tradition is inconceivable without this spice. Turmeric contains curcumin, an active compound which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may also help improve symptoms of depression and arthritis, prevent heart disease and even the growth of cancer cells. Its anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties are already well known and this explains why traditionally a mixture of haldi-chuna (turmeric and calcium carbonate) was applied to heal swellings and broken bones.

As per reports, the Lakadong turmeric is said to have 7 to 12% of curcumin content while regular turmeric has 2 to 3% of curcumin content. Given the high curcumin content, the health-aiding and culinary-enhancing attributes of Lakadong turmeric are believed to be more potent than regular turmeric. No wonder, this organically gown variety in Meghalaya is one of the most sought after spices of the state these days.