History and Origins of Turmeric

History and Origins of Turmeric
Turmeric was originally native to east India, but since that time it has disappeared from the wild. This was mentioned in Sanskrit and Indian texts by the first century B.C.

It was possibly but not definitely referred to by Theophrastus (371-287 B.C.), a Greek philosopher and naturalist in the 4th century B.C..

In ancient Rome turmeric was apparently known as Arabian saffron. Diocletian (245-313), who served as Roman emperor from 245-313), established a top price for this as it was used for the Roman army. Turmeric was brought to Rome from Arabian ports.

Turmeric was known to the Chinese by the 7th century. It has been used in India for over 2000 years. Turmeric was mentioned in the writings of Marco Polo in China in 1280. He wrote “it is quite as effective in use as saffron is.”

Related Species of the Common Turmeric

There are several related species of turmeric that have been used for culinary purposes.

Curcuma alismatifolia is a perennial herb that is native to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. The flowers are prepared as a vegetable in Cambodia.

There is an ornamental variety of this species called Siam tulip. Flowering from spring into the fall, its bloom vary in color, according to the variety chosen. The plant reaches 1 ½ to 2 feet tall.

Curcuma amada is a perennial herb that is native to India. This is a cultivated crop, and the spice is found in pickles.

Curcuma zeodoaria is known as zedoary. This perennial herb is native to east India. It is cultivated in Madagascar, southeast Asia, and Sri Lanka. The root is used as a flavoring. The plant is grown in Florida as an ornamental.

Curcuma xanthorrhiza is a perennial herb that is native to Amboina, and is grown in Java. This is used as a source of starch, and is used in cooking.

Curcuma leucorhiza is known as tikon. This herbaceous perennial is a source of arrowroot.

Curcurma heyneara is a perennial herb that is native to Java. It is cultivated as a starch source.

Curcuma angustifolia is called East Indian arrowroot. This perennial herb is native to the Himalayas. It is grown for the rhizomes, which yield east Indian arrowroot.

Curcuma aeruginosa is a perennial herb that is native to Burma. The roots are a source of starch.

Curcuma roscoeana is grown in Hawaii as an ornamental. It is called jewel of Burma. Initially yellow, the bracts turn orange as they age.

Where Turmeric is Grown

India is the world’s largest producer of turmeric. In addition, India is the main exporter. India produces at least 150,000 tons or so annually with around 80% of that being used within the country. In addition, countries that grow and export turmeric include Peru, Haiti, and Jamaica. Other producers include China, Sri Lanka, Java, Indonesia, Taiwan, Indochina, and Australia. Most of the turmeric grown in Asia is used within its country of origin. The U.S. is a main importer of turmeric.

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This content was written by Connie Krochmal. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Krochmal for details.