whole turmeric
photo credit: gourmetsleuth


Turmeric root is native to the Orient but is widely cultivated in India and the Caribbean. It has a bitter, pungent flavor and an intense yellow-orange color. Turmeric can be purchased in whole root form or dried and powdered. The earthy flavor remains strong even in the powdered version. Turmeric roots are harvested and sold primarily (in the U.S.) in Asian markets. Fresh turmeric will stain your hands and clothing so be cautious when using. The most common form is powdered which is easy to use and store.

Turmeric History turmeric plant

Mentions of Turmeric are bound in Sanskrit writings in India.  It spread across the Pacific from Asia by Polynesians from Hawaii and Easter Islands.  It is theorized that turmeric was first  used for dye and only later incorporated into food.  The original form of this rhizome no longer exists in the wild form.

As you can see in the picture the plant looks very similar to ginger.  The edible part is the rhizome (root) underground.

Medicinal Uses

Turmeric is sometimes used as antiseptic. It is made into a paste and applied to cuts, boils or wounds.  Sometimes turmeric is mixed with milk or water and taken internally to tread intestinal disorders as well as colds and sore throats.  The root is rich in iron and can taken for anemia.

Culinary Uses

turmeric powderTurmeric was used in biblical times as a perfume but now it is most commonly used for both its musky flavor and color.  Ground turmeric is widely used in East Indian cooking particularly in curries as well as other soups and stews.

On a familiar note, turmeric is the yellow color you see in commercially prepared mustard.

It is common to  use turmeric in the dried, powdered form.

Fun Fact about Turmeric

Nutrition Information For Turmeric

Serving Size
1 tbsp
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 3mg
Total Carbohydrate 4g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 0g
Protein 1g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.


A 1" piece of fresh turmeric is equal to 1 teaspoon dried. 

If you need a substitute for coloring but not for flavor,  you can use saffron (very expensive) or prepare a "tea" of annotto seeds, steeped for 20 minutes, use the liquid only and discard seeds.


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.