Turmeric is a common food flavoring and coloring in Persian cooking. It’s used in almost all the Persian dishes. Turmeric is derived from the root of curcuma longa, a perennial plant of the zingiberaceae (ginger) family. The roots are boiled first then dried in an oven before being ground into powder. Turmeric powder has a slightly bitter and peppery taste and is mostly known for its bright orange color and its ability to add a delicate flavor to any dish.
Turmeric powder has been used as a food colorant, natural food preservative and flavor base since ancient times. It’s traditionally recognized as “Indian saffron” since its deep yellow-orange color is quite similar to that of saffron. It’s also used in mustard and to color butter, cheese, cotton, silk, paper, wood and cosmetics to name a few.
The use of turmeric was described in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine as early as the seventh century AD. In various Asian folk medicine traditions, turmeric has been used to treat a long list of conditions such as diarrhea, fever, bronchitis, colds, parasitic worms, leprosy and inflammation of bladder and kidney. Herbalists have applied turmeric salve to bruises, leech bites, festering eye infections, mouth inflammations, skin conditions and infected wounds. Some people inhale smoke from burning turmeric to relieve chronic coughs. Turmeric mixed with hot water and sugar is considered by some herbalists to be a remedy for colds. In India and Malaysia, there is a custom of making turmeric paste to apply directly to the skin, a practice now under study for the possibility that it may prevent skin cancer.
Turmeric powder should be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place. Care should be taken when handling turmeric for its deep color can easily stain. To avoid a lasting stain, the area in contact with turmeric should be quickly washed with soap and water.