Spotted: turmeric, in its natural state

turmeric.jpg If you're over the age of 19 or so, you've probably given up, for the most part, on the cheapest of restaurant rows: Indian on East 6th street. But home cooks shouldn't overlook Dual Specialty Store, Inc., right around the corner from all those young men yelling "half off!" at you.

Better known as "the store with all the beer," Dual also has an exhaustive supply of dried herbs and spices, and the other evening, we spotted a rare thing just outside the shop: fresh turmeric. There it was, next to the bitter melons. Turmeric, a rhizome, looks a lot like its cousin Ginger (she's a sassy one), and is crisp and bright orange inside. It is popular for its medicinal qualities, as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, tummy-ache healer, and probably a cure for cancer.

It should be peeled and sliced, and then used in sautéing. But experimenters, beware: the raw version is less earthy and more bitter than the powdery food coloring you're used to!

Dual Specialty Store, Inc. 91 First Avenue (212) 979-6045

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