Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Turmeric is the dried underground stem, or rhizome, of a herbaceous tropical plant in the ginger family, Curcuma longa. It appears to have been domesticated in prehistoric times in India, probably for its deep yellow pigment (curcuma comes from the Sanskrit for “yellow”). Turmeric has long been used to color skin, clothing, and foods for ceremonies surrounding marriage and death. In the United States, the main use of turmeric is to provide color and nonpungent filler in prepared mustards. It’s also the major component of most prepared curry powders, making up 25–50% of their weight.