Turmeric's warm aroma, bright color, and gingery/peppery taste are relied upon in cooking throughout Asia. It's best known as the spice that gives curry powder its distinctive color.
Turmeric is native to Southeast Asia, but is cultivated extensively in India and Indonesia. Alleppey, a region and city in extreme southwestern India, produces two grades of turmeric sold on the US market. "Fingers", are appendages separated from the main rhizome and broken into 1-3 inch lengths. Fingers have a higher curcumin content (therefore, better color), more flavor (because of their volatile oil content), and are the best quality turmeric for grinding. The "splits and bulbs" grade are pieces derived from the main root. They are less expensive, but tend to be lower in overall quality (flavor, volatile oil, color), more fibrous and difficult to grind.
The golden hue of turmeric brightens curries, condiments, and egg, fish, and grain dishes. Its taste is warmly aromatic--a bit like ginger and pepper. In India turmeric is often used to color sweet dishes, while in Morocco it's used to spice meat, (especially lamb) and vegetables. It's used with fish, in baked goods, meat and meat products, prepared mustards and pickles, broths, cheeses, dressings, grains, egg recipes, and soups. Try it with artichokes and potatoes and in rice dishes. And combine it with coriander and cinnamon for a spicy meat or poultry rub.