What It Is: Part of the ginger family, turmeric is a deep orange-yellow powder. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has an earthy, slightly bitter, and peppery taste and a mustard-like scent.
Origin: Turmeric grows wild in the forests of South Asia, most specifically Indonesia and southern India, where it’s been harvested for over 5,000 years. Today, commercial producers of the spice include India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Haiti, and Jamaica. The Indian city of Nizamabad is the world’s largest producer of turmeric and is an important trading center for the spice.
What It’s Used In: Turmeric is commonly used to flavor curries and other Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. Outside of South Asia, turmeric is used to give a rich yellow color to ballpark mustard, canned beverages, ice cream, yogurt, yellow cake, orange juice, popcorn, candy, frosting, cereals, and gelatin.
Body benefits: Turmeric is an excellent source of manganese and iron. The spice has long been used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat conditions such as jaundice, toothaches, bruises, and colic. Research today suggests that curcumin - the active ingredient in turmeric - has anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate symptoms of a variety of conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and cystic fibrosis. Since curcumin is also an antioxidant, it may help fend off cancer as well.
Fun Fact: Turmeric became known as “Indian saffron” during medieval times, since it was widely used as an alternative to pricey saffron threads.
10 Turmeric Recipes to Try