|Pronounced "too-mer-ick", Turmeric, Curcuma longa, is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant. A member of the ginger family, Turmeric is native to tropical South Asia. Turmeric is a central ingredient in Curry Powders and pastes, Masalas, Ras El Hanout and is also called Indian Saffron or Curcumin Turmeric. Turmeric is also frequently misspelled as tumeric. Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia. It is one of the key ingredients in numerous Asian dishes. Tamil traditional medicine, called Siddha, has recommended turmeric for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
How Turmeric is Used in Other Cultures
Turmeric is mostly used in savory dishes, but also makes some appearances in several sweet dishes, such as Sfouf cake. In India, the leaf of the turmeric plant is used in the preparation of the sweet dish patoleo where the coconut and rice flour are wrapped in the leaf.
Many Persian dishes use turmeric as a starter ingredient, and when combined with dried limes is used to flavor a Mesopotamian stew of meat, tomatoes, lentils and onion that is served over rice. In South Africa, turmeric gives boiled white rice a rich, golden color.
In the US, it's often used commercially in baked goods, biscuits, canned beverages, cake icings, cereals, dairy products, ice cream, orange juice, sauces, yellow cakes and yogurt.
Different Grades of Turmeric
We source our Turmeric from Alleppey, a region in the farthest reaches of southwestern India. There are several types of Turmeric produced in this region for the US - the “splits and bulbs” grade come from the main root (underground) and these tend to be less expensive and of a lower quality (less flavor, color and volatile oil) are more fibrous and difficult to grind.
We carry the higher quality Turmeric “Fingers” which are appendages that are separated from the main rhizome (which are the elongated horizontal subterranean plant stems that produce roots below and shoots above). These are then broken into 1” to 3” lengths. The “fingers” possess a greater curcumin content (in essence better coloring), more flavor (because of their higher volatile oil) and this provides an enhanced quality Turmeric for grinding.
Our top quality Turmeric contains 5%-6% curcuminoids (a group of yellow pigments) of which curcumin is the primary pigment. Curcumin gives the rhizome its orangish yellow coloring and this color level is also an indication of its quality. Turmeric is traded world-wide based on its curcumin content. Be careful when handling this, as it will stain hands, cooking utensils and even your clothes.
When and Where to Use
Use Turmeric with beans, chicken, eggs, fish, meat, rice and spinach.
Turmeric works well in combination with cilantro, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, ginger, mustard seeds, paprika and pepper.
With a complex, rich and woody aroma with citrus, floral and ginger undertones. The flavor is slightly sour and bitter, slightly pungent, warm and musky.
Some of the more popular recipes with Turmeric include African Vegetable Stew, Shrimp Garam Masala, Amritsari Chole and Rajma.
The Authentic India Spice Guide
8 Healthiest Cuisines in the World
Most Popular Spices by Cuisine
How Much Spice & When to Use It