It was my familiarity with Ayurveda that I was introduced to Black Turmeric (Curcuma caesia). That was about three years back. Ever since then I had approached friends, relatives and even acquaintances to seek out Kali Haldi. Most often they were either laughed at or called names. Or plainly told: “How can Haldi be black? Haldi is yellow and it’s so.”
This June, having been member of a Facebook group I ultimately got hold of the rhizomes of the “very rare and auspicious plant” from Odisha.
In fact, enterprising individuals and nurseries are making a quick buck selling 100g rhizomes for Rs 2,500 while the regular haldi sells Rs 60 a kg. A ebay seller I approached offered me a black turmeric plant for Rs 1200. Asked does he have buyers, he answered: “I have sold dozens of them.”
Native to north eastern states and Orissa, it is a perennial herb with bluish-black rhizomes. Its flowers are pink in colour. The rhizomes are bitter in taste with a pungent smell. The dried rhizomes are brownish black in colour. When the rhizomes are boiled, a camphoraceous odour is produced because of the presence camphor.
Presently Black Turmeric is on the verge of extinction because of deforestation, unfavourable climatic changes, over exploitation and bio-piracy.
Curcuma caesia, a wonderful herb, contains a very good percentage of curcumin among all the Curcuma or turmeric species. Curcumin is a chemical substance which possesses many curative properties. It is an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic compound. It increases antioxidant capacity of the body.
My Curcuma caesia plants are barely a month old. The leaves sport a strip of black running on the middle which identifies it as one.