See also: Article on Turmeric
Turmeric is the root of a tropical plant that has been used in cooking since 600 B.C. It is native to the Orient and now can be found in India and the Caribbean. It has a bitter, pungent almost woodsy flavor, is yellowish-orange in color.
The use of turmeric as a coloring agent for food and fabric dates as far back as 600 B.C. Marco Polo, in 1280, mentioned turmeric in notes of his travels in China: 'There is also a vegetable that has all the properties of true saffron, as well as the smell and the color, and yet it is not really saffron.' In medieval Europe, turmeric was known as 'Indian saffron.' Since then, turmeric has been used as an inexpensive substitute for saffron.
The turmeric root has light brown skin and bright reddish-orange flesh. Turmeric was used in biblical times as a perfume but now it is most commonly used to flavor and color food. Ground turmeric is widely used in East Indian cooking particularly in curries as well as other soups and stews.
Fresh turmeric roots should have a spicy fragrance and stubby fingers protruding from the sides of the root. Refrigerate unpeeled turmeric, tightly wrapped, for 3 weeks.
Turmeric is typically boiled or steamed and then dried and ground into powder. Use ground tumeric in fish or rice dishes. Be careful with fresh turmeric, it will stain your hands and clothing.
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