Turmeric, essential to curry powder, is a member of the ginger family. It has a light, musky flavor along with a brilliant golden-orange color for which it is famous throughout the world. It contains the compound curcumin, which is a strong anti-inflammatory. In Asia, its main use for thousands of years was as a dyestuff. At one time, sun worshippers, whose sacred color was yellow, dyed their textiles with the very expensive saffron. When it was discovered that the very inexpensive turmeric produced the same brilliant color, the sacred saffron was guarded for special culinary dishes.
Turmeric can replace the golden color with which saffron graces foods, but not saffron's distinctive flavor! For a while, turmeric was also used as a fabric dye in this country, until it was replaced by newer coal-tar compounds. To this day, some Hindu brides paint themselves with turmeric as part of the wedding ceremony, while married women rub it into their cheeks to give off an attractive golden glow. In Asia, turmeric is considered a good luck charm; newborn babies might have it rubbed on their forehead, or a bit of the root may be made into a necklace for them to wear.
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