Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical South Asia. In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian saffron, since it was widely used as an alternative to the far more expensive saffron spice. When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens and then ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in curries and other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It offers a spicy, peppery aroma and taste and a brilliant natural coloring.
Turmeric’s active ingredient is curcumin and it has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell. Turmeric is mostly used in savory dishes, as well as some sweet dishes, such as the cake sfouf. Try adding to eggs, relishes, chicken, seafood, rice, pickles, and curries.