The Wunder of Turmeric

Fran Bailey, who is on of the Farms To Feed Us team & consultant for Wunder Workshop, tells us about their organic, ethically sourced turmeric-based products.

Founded by Zoe Lind Van’T Hof and Tom Smale in 2014, Wunder Workshop’s single-origin turmeric, invigorating tea blends, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, ginger and coconuts are sourced directly from small community and family farms (also called forest gardens) in Sri Lanka

Wunder Workshop is inspired by Ayurveda, the ‘Science of Life‘; the principles of which are based on a preventive and holistic approach to health. Zoe and Tom believe in a full-circle, impact-driven, holistic business model; every decision is centred on ‘consumption with purpose’ with the aim of giving back more than they take from the planet. This is about more than just using potent, high quality ingredients and eco-packaging, it’s about prioritising the health of the planet and people, including farmers.

Turmeric thrives in a warm, humid climate where there is rich soil and shaded land. It’s a root spice with leaves that grow 1m high. Small forest gardens in the Sri Lankan mountains, which Wunder Workshop partners with, adopt a technique called forest gardening which mimics Sri Lanka’s ecosystem to create a highly productive landscape for human use that doesn’t harm nature. 

Instead of mono-cultural farms, planted with neat rows of annual spices and vast orchards of a single fruit species, the forest-gardener aims to plant a diverse forest. Beneficial relationships between plants, site and soil are developed to create a garden where ground-hugging, perennial vegetables grow among herbs and soft fruit bushes, which in turn are sheltered under the shadow canopy of trees yielding nuts and fruits.

Mono-culture tea and spice crops dominate agriculture in Sri Lanka. On their annual trip earlier this year, Zoe & Tom witnessed and listened to the concerns of organic farmers who are worried about severe soil depletion and health of female tea pickers who are exposed to heavy pesticide use with little or no protection (an umbrella, if they’re lucky). Birth defects and cancer cases have seen a noticeable rise.  

Zoe says: “the post-colonial system still exploits the land and people in non-Western countries, combined with the effect this has on the environment by using synthetic chemicals and unsustainable farming techniques. It’s another example of the disparities in global power creating issues at the source of the supply chain, something we in the West are not usually made aware of.” 

Having travelled to Sri Lanka many times as a teenager with her late mother, Zoe became obsessed with the magic of turmeric, its medicinal properties and vibrant golden colour. And so began her vision to harvest the power of regeneratively grown plants and wisdom of the indigenous people for the future of our health. 

In Sri Lanka, demand for turmeric has soared during COVID-19 crisis as local communities combined advice from the World Health Organisation with traditional practices of the ancient Ayurvedic system where turmeric is valued as an anti-inflammatory, but also as an antiseptic (also well accepted by science). In Tamil Nadu’s Rameswaram, the villagers used powder of neem leaves and turmeric water for disinfecting streets and roads [1].

A traditional practice during a time of plague is to place a bowl of water with cut pieces of lime (Citrus Aurantifolia), turmeric, charcoal and lots of crushed neem leaves at the entrance and the back door of a house. People wash their hands and feet from the bowl before entering the house and when leaving. The water is changed daily and the bowl kept in place for several more days after the disease is over ~ a form of herbal handwashing that predates the advent of soap in these communities. [2]

With the closure of many cafes, delis, yoga studios, and restaurants, Wunder Workshop has had to find other avenues to sell it’s organic turmeric ensuring this precious golden spice doesn’t go to waste. Listed on Farms To Feed Us, you’ll find Wunder Workshop’s Golden Mylk latte blends, Turmeric powder, loose teas, and adaptogen blends for nationwide delivery – essential healing foods for the pantry.

Tom’s Turmeric Sourdough

Wunder Workshop gives 1% of their revenue to community and environmental projects around the world. Cloth pouches are made by AMMA Sri Lanka – a non-profit that trains and employs mothers living in the Sri Lankan highlands to turn food waste and plants into natural dyes creating handmade sustainable textiles.  

Follow Tom & Zoe @wunderworkshop

In March 2019 and 2020, Wunder Workshop planted 500 trees to create the start of a ‘Wunder Forest’ in Bunkwimake with the Ikú community in the Sierra Nevada, Colombia. The trees are grown alongside cacao trees and are being looked after by the local community using agro-forestry and their ancestral knowledge to nurture the land, preserving nature and ancient wisdom. This is key in the restoration and preservation of the natural ecosystem, in the heart of the world.

Tom and Zoe recently released their first recipe bookSuper Root Spices, with modern ways of cooking turmeric, ginger, galangal, ashwagandha and maca.

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