Curcuma’s medicinal qualities are also recognized in Western medicine. It has a stimulating effect on the stomach as well as antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects. In ancient India, curcuma was also widely used as a dye for clothing.
What To Look For
Curcuma is sold both fresh as well as in dried and ground powder form. Like ginger, fresh curcuma should be free of bruises, blemishes, or moldy spots. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Note that the intense natural yellow dye contained in fresh curcuma will stain your hands and any utensils, surfaces, and clothing it comes in contact with, often leaving permanent stains.
Dried, ground curcuma is much easier to work with and has a much milder taste than the fresh rhizomes. It needs to be kept in an airtight container in a dark place, as sunlight will diminish its color and flavor. Its aromas evaporate rather quickly, giving it a limited shelf life. Curcuma is sometimes sold as fake saffron, or is mixed in with saffron powder.
How To Use It
Curcuma is mostly used in its dried, ground form, except in Thai cooking where the fresh rhizome is grated and an essential ingredient in Thai yellow curry paste. In India, curcuma is one of the most important spices, and used in almost all dishes, including curries, rice dishes, and meat dishes.
It is one of the standard ingredients of curry powder. In the West, curcuma has no culinary application. Instead, it is often used as a dye for foods such as mustard or pasta.