Turmeric – A Brief History
Turmeric is a little known exotic delicacy that is becoming more popular among foodies and health nuts alike. Its used in Indian curry, cheese, rice, and smoothies?
Surprisingly, many foods are commonly paired with this agent root vegetable.
With applications that range from dye to helping health gurus market superfoods, turmeric is a traditional staple in Asian and Middle Eastern kitchens that has been getting a lot of attention in recent years.
But is turmeric really a cooking revelation? Is the excitement really justified here or is it all just hype?
If you’ve ever wanted to know about turmeric, its origins, and its uses in food, then you’ll definitely want to keep reading.
What is Turmeric?
Known in some circles as the “Indian saffron” and “the Golden Spice” in others, turmeric is a spice that has literally ancient origins. To put this into perspective, turmeric is such an old discovery that people were cooking with it before the chariot was invented.
While it is available in root form, most people purchase turmeric in its powder form for easier storage and general convenience.
Where Does Turmeric Come From?
The turmeric plant, known in botanical circles as Curcuma longa, for all you scientists out there, grows flowers as well as an underground stem called a rhizome that, for visual reference, looks almost almost exactly like a ginger root.
This root, the rhizome, is where the spice comes from as it’s baked and dried before being ground up into the bright orange powdered form that people are most familiar with.
How Did We Start Cooking With Turmeric?
While there are no precise names and times given as to who discovered it first, according to at least one source, there have been traces of turmeric, garlic, and ginger found in pots dating back to 2500 BCE.
In the western world, the woman who gets credit for being the first written reference to turmeric is Hannah Glasse who published a cookbook called The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy in 1747.
Did you know?: The recipe by Hannah Glasse that mentioned turmeric was for Indian pickles. Apparently creativity in recipes that include turmeric goes back a few centuries.
How To Make Turmeric Work For You in Your Recipes
Turmeric is a known staple when cooking your standard curries, rice dishes, or dishes with Asian or Middle Eastern themes. But there are several reasons why you don’t have to limit your use of turmeric to strictly international fare:
- Turmeric has a mild flavor
- It adds bright color to a dish
- It’s a pungent spice
Even though the flavor is mild, turmeric is still distinct and capable of enhancing other flavors. This is why turmeric is able to add nuance and subtly to your cooking if you’re not already using it to add color.
In addition, turmeric’s bright, bold orange hue makes it perfect as a garnish or as a means of creating eye-catching culinary arrangements.
From a culinary point of view, the full potential of turmeric has been hiding in plain sight for a very long time. Whether you’re cooking international dishes, pungent, spicy, mild, or sweet and savory, this is a spice that can add a unique twist to your recipe.
Working on a new soup recipe? Looking for a pop of color in your new dish arrangement?
Turmeric’s versatility and subtlety may be exactly what you’re looking for.
About The Author
Produce Services of Los Angeles is a proud partner and produce supplier to over 400 restaurants throughout Southern California! We carry a full line of wholesale fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables including turmeric along with dairy and dry goods! Produce Services supports local farmers and sources local produce whenever possible, we support up and coming talent in the food community.