08/21/2012 04:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Turmeric 101


What: Turmeric is a root from the ginger family. In its original form, it has a knobby shape similar to ginger. It has been used as the main spice for food and religious rituals in India and China for over 4,000 years.

Taste & Smell: Warm, pungent, earthy, woody flavor and aroma. A little bitter, much like orange rind. Hints of pepper and, at times, ginger.

Main use: Predominantly used in its powdered form in Indian, Middle Eastern and Thai cooking to add a slightly bitter spicy taste and a pop of color. A small amount imparts a lot of flavor. It is the main ingredient in curry powder and gives regular bottled mustard its bright yellow color.

Other uses: As a natural dye for clothes and many cosmetic, medicinal and religious purposes. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is considered to be a potent antioxidant and antiseptic in Eastern and Western medicine. Medicinal benefits include being a stomach soother, a powerful anti-inflammatory, a natural antiseptic for wounds, and a liver cleanser. Eating it with black pepper enhances its healing properties.

Other names: haldi (Hindi), curcum (Arabic), kha-min (Thai), curcuma (Spanish & French)

Story/Memory/Recipe: Read Turmeric Milk: Not Just A Pretty Spice and Spiced Latkes: From 0 to 60