Turmeric is the dried root of the plant Curcuma longa. Noted for its bright yellow color, the root is related to and similar in size to ginger. Turmeric's flavor resembles a combination of ginger and pepper.
Turmeric is a powerful coloring agent. Used to color and flavor prepared mustard, pickles, relish, chutneys, and rice dishes as well as butter and cheese, turmeric is also used in spice blends such as curry powder and rendangs in the Caribbean, India, North Africa, the Middle East and Indonesia.
India (Alleppey turmeric) is the primary exporter, although Peru and China are additional sources. Alleppey turmeric is highly regarded for its deep yellow to orange-yellow color. Chinese turmeric, which is of comparable quality to Alleppey, is characteristically more brownish in color.
The use of turmeric as a coloring agent for food and fabric dates as far back as 600 B.C. Marco Polo, in 1280, mentioned turmeric in notes of his travels in China: "There is also a vegetable that has all the properties of true saffron, as well as the smell and the color, and yet it is not really saffron." In medieval Europe, turmeric was known as "Indian saffron." Since then, turmeric has been used as an inexpensive substitute for saffron.
Flavor & Aroma
Turmeric has a characteristic musky, earthy aroma and a pungent, slightly bitter flavor.