If you aren’t familiar with this species as Curcuma longa, perhaps you will know it by a different name: turmeric.
Photographed here are nearly 5kg (~11 lbs.) of turmeric rhizomes from the photographer’s kitchen garden (thanks again, apasar@Flickr!). While turmeric is perhaps best known for its use in culinary dishes and food dyeing, in India and other southern Asian countries, it is used for traditional medicines and ceremonial purposes. For examples of the latter, today’s photographer shared some pre-wedding ceremonial images featuring turmeric crushing (e.g., photo 1, photo 2, and photo 3). Another example is this image of turmeric being used in a religious ceremony: Devotees showering turmeric powder (Bhandār) on each other at a temple dedicated to Khanderaya.
Curcuma longa is native to the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia, though I suspect like many important economic crops, where it is strictly native in distribution versus where it was introduced by humans (but now seems native) is lost to history. A member of the Zingiberaceae, it is therefore closely related to another spice, culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale). Turmeric rhizomes can be used fresh in cooking, but are more often processed into powder for storage and preservation through a process of boiling, slicing & drying, and grinding. As a spice, it features prominently in the cuisines of Asia, the Middle East, and north Africa. Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages features more extensive information on turmeric, including photographs of the plants in cultivation and in flower: Curcuma longa.
Lastly, in a bit of BPotD news, I’ve been able to resume repairing and updating old entries. September 2005 and June 2015 have recently been updated, tagged, etc. (see the monthly archives page). Over twenty percent of entries are now properly converted.