Asafoetida is the dried latex exuded from the rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, a perennial herb that grows 1 to 1.5 m (3.3 to 4.9 ft) tall. The species is native to the deserts of Iran, mountains of Afghanistan, and is mainly cultivated in nearby India.
Asafoetida is said to have originated in Rome, and despite not being a native of India, it has been used in Indian medicine and cookery for ages. It is a resin that is ochre in colour and it is most widely used in its powdered or granulated form, which is usually yellow in colour. The resin is difficult to grate and is traditionally crushed using mortar and pestle. The most commonly available form these days is compounded asafoetida, which contains 30 per cent resin and 70 per cent gum Arabic and rice flour or maida.