Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of the Curcuma longa, which is a plant related to the ginger family. Extensively used in Indian and Southern Asian cooking for its subtly bitter flavor, turmeric powder is a necessary ingredient in curry and is known for its bold, rusty-yellow color. Some spices are mixed with synthetic dyes to enhance their hue, but both the color and flavor of powdered turmeric is 100 percent natural.
Turmeric powder is the powdered root of the Curcuma long plant. The root is covered in a fibrous brown, bark-like skin, but the meat of the root is a vibrant yellowish-orange color. Turmeric is very similar to ginger. It is very fibrous and hard to cut while still in root form. Turmeric powder is made by slowly dehydrating the root in a temperature-controlled environment that regulates both heat and humidity. As the root dehydrates, fine toothed graters break down the turmeric into smaller and smaller grains while the pieces of the root are constantly agitated by large machines. Once the root is fully dehydrated, the dry root pieces are shaken and forced through a sieve, which is a fine mesh strainer. The mesh is so fine that when the turmeric root passes through completely, it turns into a powder. This powder is then weighed out, bottled and shipped to grocery stores and farmers markets.
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Although turmeric is naturally bright in color, some companies that produce lower quality turmeric powder will add artificial dye to their product. Poor quality turmeric will produce poor quality color. Always check the ingredient list to ensure that the spice you are buying is 100 percent turmeric powder and nothing more.
Unfortunately, some food companies are willing to sacrifice the quality of their products to save a few pennies. In rare cases, spices such as turmeric powder will have fillers added to them to stretch out the quantity of the spice, which, in turn, lowers the quality. Fillers such as corn starch and flour are added on rare occasion to turmeric powder. Major grocery store chains often avoid food suppliers that dilute their spices with fillers, so to avoid purchasing an inferior turmeric powder, shop at reputable grocery stores, Indian markets and other trustworthy food suppliers.