Turmeric, is a spice of the ginger family that is not only stunning in colour, but has been around for centuries. The active ingredient in this golden spice is curcumin. This interesting plant, typically grows wild in the forests of South and Southeast Asia and is a main ingredient in a variety of Indian, Persian and Thai dishes.
In medieval times turmeric became known as "Indian saffron", since it was widely used (and still is) as a cheaper alternative to the far more expensive saffron spice.
Much like its ginger relative, the root has a yellowish-brown exterior with a dull orange interior that looks bright yellow when powdered. The aroma it gives off is rather earthy and the flavour is warm with a sharp and slightly bitter aftertaste.
Although you may occasionally find fresh turmeric in the produce aisle, you'll have a much easier time finding the dried variety. Ground turmeric will maintain its colouring properties indefinitely, although the flavour will diminish over time (6-8 months roughly), be safe purchase in moderation. Also, be sure to store this spice in airtight containers, out of sunlight.
For cooking, this golden spice pairs well with lentils, cauliflower, chicken and lamb. It is often recommended that you saute the spice in a little oil before adding it to other ingredients; this technique, called “blooming”, brings out turmeric's flavour. Be careful though, as turmeric can stain skin, clothing, countertops, and even utensils.
Turmeric’s ability to heal wounds is renowned in India, as they have even invented Band-Aids saturated with this spice. To try this at home, make a paste out of turmeric and water, apply to the area for up to an hour, and then rinse. Be sure to wrap your infected area with a cloth as not to get the turmeric colouring on other things. Since the colour doesn't dissolve well in water, use a little hydrogen peroxide to lift the stain before washing it out. This spice is also extremely well-known for its helpful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. You can find turmeric pills within many of the local pharmacies to help in the care of anti-inflammatory related issues.