"...a vegetable that has all the properties of true saffron, as well the smell as the color, and yet it is not really saffron."
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(Curcuma domestica; Curcuma longa)
A long and storied history for this ginger-looking, brown-on-the-outside, bright-orange-on-the-inside rhizome. It was listed as a coloring agent in an Assyrian herbal dating back to 600 BCE. It was used in sacrificial and religious rites in ancient India and China--and is used likewise to this day. In 1280, Marco Polo mentioned in his journals that he saw turmeric growing in the Fukien region of China, "...a vegetable that has all the properties of true saffron, as well the smell as the color, and yet it is not really saffron."
Throughout medieval times, it was known in Europe as "Indian saffron" because of its coloring power, which, incidentally, is terrific. It's the yellow that puts the yellow in ballpark mustard--not to mention in curry.