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Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.)
Zingiberaceae (ginger family)
Curcuma domestica Valet, Curcuma rotunda
Because of ancient trade, the origin of turmeric cannot accurately be reconstructed; probably South East Asia or South Asia - Indonesia and Southern India where it has been harvested for more than 5000 years. A related species, Curcuma xanthorrhiza, grows on Java, where it is called temu lawak In taste, it is equivalent to Curcuma longa.
The name curcuma is derived from the old Arabic name for the kurkum plant better known as saffron .
English turmeric derives from French terre-mérite (Latin terra merita, “Meritorious Earth”), probably because ground turmeric resembles mineral pigments (ochre). More about the colour, see here.
Used plant part
Rhizome. Fresh turmeric leaves are used in some regions of Indonesia as a flavouring, e.g., in Western Sumatra.
Turmeric has a peppery, warm, sharp, bitter flavour and a mild fragrance slightly suggestive of orange and ginger.
In fresh state, the rootstock has an aromatic and spicy fragrance, which by drying gives way to a more medicinal aroma. On storing, the smell rather quickly changes to earthy and unpleasant. Similarly, the colour of ground turmeric tends to fade if the spice is stored too long.
Turmeric contains an essential oil (max. 5%), which contains a variety of sesquiterpenes, many of which are specific for the species. Most important for the aroma are turmerone (max. 30%), ar-turmerone (25%) and zingiberene (25%). Conjugated diarylheptanoids (1,7-diaryl-hepta-1,6-diene-3,5-diones, e.g. curcumin) are responsible for the orange colour and probably also for the pungent taste (3 to 4%). Curcumin is about 0.3-5.4% of raw turmeric. Curcumin is also used as a food colour (E100).
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