The double role of turmeric in food preparation is matched only by paprika among the common spices. However, it is more often compared with, or substituted for, the expensive saffron. When Marco Polo found turmeric in China in 1280, he described it as ‘a vegetable which has all the properties of true saffron, as well the smell as the colour, and yet it is not really saffron’. This was an exaggeration, since aroma and flavour are not alike, but the yellow of turmeric does resemble that of saffron. This accounts for the French name safran d’Inde and other similar names.