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Turmeric has has been used for centuries in Eastern cuisines, but is just now trending in the West as a miracle food. You’ll probably recognize this spice as a component of curry powder.  It’s a member of ginger’s botanical family (zingiberaceae), and if you saw it fresh, you’d mistake it for ginger. It grows in knobby rhizomes and has a similar gingery flavor with a hint of peppery heat. But once you cut into a turmeric root, it’s clear you don’t have ginger. The flesh inside is bright yellow-orange. Its pigment lends its color to many foods, including curry powder, cheese, butter, pickles, and hot dog mustard.

Powdered turmeric is made from the smaller offshoots of the main rhizome that are boiled, peeled, dried, and ground. Turmeric is available fresh in Asian markets, but its flavor is no more remarkable than the more easily attainable powder. Both forms will stain your skin and clothes, so take care.

Curcumin, the main flavor component , is a super- powerful antioxidant, is being studied for its possible beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis, colon cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma.  It has been proven to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, relieving symptoms of arthritis, osteoarthritis. It reduces discomfort of digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and is being studied as a possible solution to the buildup of arterial plaque.

If you are considering adding turmeric to your diet for health reasons, researchers agree that raw is best.  So invest in a good microplane grater, and find your nearest Asian market.  Add it fresh to salad dressings, sprinkle it over vegetables, add it to you curries, soups, stews.