Spices have long been valued for their potential health properties, and lately, with consumers growing increasingly health conscious as well as increasingly interested in ethnic cuisines, spices like turmeric, ginger, and cumin have been trending. Turmeric, in particular, has garnered much attention for its perceived health benefits as well as its prominent role in curry, which has also been trending given the rise of Asian, African and Middle Eastern cuisines. Here are some fun facts about turmeric:
A native of southern Asia, turmeric is a member of the ginger family. Like ginger, its source grows underground not from the root but from the subterranean portion of the plant’s stem. This portion is known as the rhizome, and is a knobby structure from which small roots grow. Turmeric rhizomes are harvested, dried, cleaned and ground to become the spice. Above ground, the turmeric plant is one of the more attractive spices growing 2 – 3 feet tall with long bright green leaves and corn shaped spikes of yellow flowers.
Turmeric is best known for the intense yellow color it imparts and has been used as a clothing or skin dye for thousands of years. Many parts of Asia have seen the spice used topically on the skin in wedding ceremonies, during or after childbirth or even as a daily cosmetic to give the face a desired yellow tint.
Though there are numerous varieties of curry powders, almost all rely on turmeric to contribute its characteristic yellow hue. When used at a high enough level, the spice also provides a distinctive pungent, peppery flavor to the blend. Other examples of seasonings containing turmeric are pick-ling blends, soup mixes, mustards or any application where a natural yellow color is desired.