Have you ever wondered where turmeric powder comes from? Apparently, it doesn't grow in a jar. Turmeric is a rhizome (like ginger) that is grown in warm, wet climates, and these sticks are dried pieces of its root. If you encounter turmeric in this form, you can break them into small pieces (I hear a hammer works well), then grind them into your own super-aromatic turmeric powder. No matter what form you find it in, turmeric is a serious super spice...
In fact, turmeric might be the healthiest spice you'll find at the grocery store. Curcumin, which gives turmeric it's bright color, has long been used in non-Western medicine, and recent experiments have indicated that it might, in fact, be a wonder-drug. Turmeric has been shown to have strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, among other virtues, and scientists are examining its potential for fighting many kinds of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, and more.
Plus, turmeric adds a pleasantly spicy warmth to food. It's a staple in Indian cooking (it's already the main ingredient in most varieties of curry powder), and common in Middle Eastern cuisine. You'll also find it used as a substitute for pricey saffron since it also adds a warm yellow color to food. I like to sprinkle it in savory oatmeal, and add a extra dash to anything that I'm cooking with curry powder. Here are some easy dishes to get you started:
Fast Homemade Pickles
Spiced Yellow Rice with Chicken and Vegetables
Mango Chicken Salad