Turmeric’s Golden Goodness

Colette and Ben Ferris

Colette and Ben Ferris and friends on Kolo Kai Organic Farm. Daniel Lane photos

Kolo Kai Organic Farm is a 10-acre certified organic farm in Moloaa specializing in turmeric and three varieties of ginger. Ben and Colette Ferris began growing organic fruits and vegetables in 1980, and since 1999 fresh ginger has been the primary product.

What’s growing now: Apple bananas, avocado, citrus, galangal (Thai ginger), parsley, turmeric, white ginger, yellow ginger.


Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron, is a perennial rhizome that belongs to the ginger family. Its flavor is earthy, mildly astringent, slightly bitter and slightly peppery. The active ingredient curcumin gives it a bright orange-yellow color. Turmeric is used to dye fabric (such as the robes of Buddhist monks and Indian saris), and to impart color to mustard condiments and some dairy products.

Curcumin gives turmeric its bright orange-yellow color

The South Indian state of Nizamabad is known as Turmeric City because it is the largest producer in Asia. It is a key ingredient in the dishes of India, Persia, Nepal and Thailand. In Goa, fresh leaves are used to wrap and cook food. Turmeric figures prominently in the bridal beautification ceremonies of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Season: Turmeric is started by root cuttings, and takes eight to 10 months to grow. It’s not a plant that you can harvest in small pieces throughout the season. Kolo Kai plants rhizomes in the spring and harvests through the winter of the next year. Peak season is November through January.

What to look for: Purchase fresh turmeric rhizomes that are crisp, evenly colored and have taut skin.

Storage: Keep unpeeled roots in a plastic bag or airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two

Mellow Yellow Lettuce Cups

Health benefits: Recent studies indicate that turmeric fights infection and some cancers, reduces inflammation and treats digestive problems. Curcumin lowers the levels of two enzymes in the body that cause inflammation. It also stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots, and it’s a powerful antioxidant. The recommended dose for adults is 1.5 to 3 grams of fresh or dried turmeric root per day.

Kolo Kai Organic Farm produce can be found at:

Grocery: Papaya’s Natural Foods and Cafe, Hoku Foods Natural Market, Harvest Market. Farmers Markets: Waipa on Tuesdays and Kilauea on Thursdays. Restaurants: The Garden Cafe, and Lilikoi Lunch Wagon. Call 828-1712 for details.


Kolo Kai

Kolo Kai at the Thursday market in Kilauea. Daniel Lane photos

This recipe is light, healthy and full of flavor. Warm spices and a quick marinade make it zesty, and sweet papaya balances it out. The filling is fantastic stuffed into fresh, cool lettuce leaves or inside a wrap.

* 1 teaspoon cumin
* 1 teaspoon coriander
* 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 Hawaiian chili pepper, minced
* 1-inch piece fresh turmeric, pressed through a garlic press
* 3/4 cup plain yogurt
* 3 tablespoons minced cilantro
* 2 pounds Kaua’i Shrimp, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 1 papaya, diced
* whole lettuce leaves

Ben Ferris sells turmeric by the pound

Mix the first 12 ingredients in a bowl and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat broiler, and line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Place shrimp on baking sheet in a single layer, keeping them coated with as much yogurt marinade as possible. Broil for six to eight minutes, until shrimp is pink and just cooked through.

Cool to room temperature, and chill for at least one hour. Mix in diced papaya and serve in lettuce cups.

Makes four servings.