- Scientific name: Curcuma longa
- Family: Zingiberaceae (ginger)
Perennial herb with reed-like stems up to 2m tall. Collections of flowers (inflorescences) up to 20cm long. Flowers with many bracts, upper bracts reddish-rose colour. Rhizomes large, elliptical or cylindrical, flesh bright yellow and aromatic. Pollinated by insects.
- Turmeric is used worldwide as a food flavouring, dye and a medicine.
- In India, turmeric is highly valued for ritual and ceremonial occasions, such as weddings, or for dying the skin of cows during festivals. The fragrant leaves are used to wrap foods and the shoots are eaten as a vegetable.
- The powdered rhizome gives a gives a rich bright orange but fugitive dye. The yellow spots on fashionable 19th century silk bandanas were turmeric. These unfortunately turned red when washed in soap but returned to yellow after rinsing and drying. The dye also had problems with other alkalis and light but remained fairly popular as it needed no mordant to fix the colour. In those days it was mainly used, with other dyes, to make browns and olive greens. Today it colours our curries and cakes.
Where it grows
Widely cultivated, exact wild origin unknown but thought to be native to India. Adapted to areas of seasonal drought in the monsoonal forests with bright leaf-cover-filtered light.
- Bract: modified or specialised leaf in a flowering structure (inflorescence).
- Perennial: lives for at least two years.
- Rhizome: underground, horizontal stem, not root.