Turmeric – that golden root we all know is good for our health. Closely related to the other members of the ginger family, turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a perennial herb native to India. The herb itself is derived from the rhizome of the plant, which is dried to produce the familiar culinary powder. It needs a rather specific temperature and environment to thrive, so it is not widely cultivated throughout the world but is exported due to its desirability. Here in the sub-tropics I am lucky enough to be able to successfully grow turmeric, and this year I had a bumper crop. Turmeric has a long list of health benefits because of its medicinal properties and nutritional value. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can be used in many forms.
Artists also know turmeric as a useful source of vibrant golden colour … transferring willingly onto silk, wool and paper fibres. What I set out to discover is whether the stalks would be suitable for papermaking. After harvesting the rhizomes, I set aside the stalks and tough bases and chopped them into roughly 2cm pieces. These were placed in a large pot with 2 tablespoons of washing soda and boiled for 2 hours. This mixture was drained and rinsed. After three changes of rinse water, the resulting softened stalks were placed in my trusty 1200 V café strength blender in small batches with fresh water. Once in the vat, the pulp felt smooth and remained in suspension, so no formation aid was needed. A tiny amount (less than 5%) of acid free card was soaked and blended with the final batch.
The pulp drained freely and couched neatly although a few hairy edges protruded. A few lumps of coarsely chopped turmeric root remained and formed some lumps but overall the pulp behaved very well and I was able to form a post of 25 A4 sheets in one hour. Some were couched onto plastic, and after that onto cotton sheet squares. The sheets on the plastic had lower shrinkage and displayed a pearly sheen. After drying, the sheets had a fine crackle and translucent appearance. Eight sheets pearly sheets couched on plastic and 19 others couched onto cotton cloth are now sitting in the press. Those couched onto cloth had greater shrinkage and warping but I trust the press to sort that out. I recommend trying turmeric stalks if you can grow it. And I may add we are eating lots of golden dishes at present, a timely boost to our immune systems!