Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma Longa plant and has been grown in Indonesia and southern India for over 5000 years. A relative of ginger, turmeric has a tough brown skin and bright orange flesh. Its roots, or rhizomes, are generally boiled, then dried and ground to a powder, which is an essential ingredient in curry dishes. Turmeric has recently gained popularity outside Asia no doubt due to an increased interest in healthy foods, which seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. Turmeric is an excellent source of manganese and iron, as well as a good source of fiber, copper, Vitamin B6 and potassium. It contains curcumin, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, which has historically been used to treat a variety of conditions. Curry powders generally contain much less curcumin than turmeric powder, so for maximum health benefits it’s a good idea to buy turmeric powder separately and add a desired amount to dishes.
Turmeric has a mild, slightly bitter and peppery flavour and subtle, sweet aroma, which complement both savoury and sweet dishes, adding depth without overpowering the dish. In addition to curries, turmeric can be sprinkled on eggs, added to soups and stews, rice dishes, breads and cakes, ice cream and smoothies, salad dressings and marinades – the possibilities are endless. It adds nutrition, flavour as well as colour.
You can use fresh turmeric rhizomes in cooking but it is not as easily available as turmeric powder so most recipes include the latter form of turmeric. Store the rhizomes in the fridge and keep turmeric powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.