Cumin, Cuminum cyminum
Widely used in cuisines as varied as Indian, Eastern, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Portuguese and Spanish, cumin is a staple in many cooks’ spice racks and commonly found to be a main ingredient in curry powders, taco seasonings, and masalas.
Cumin is pronounced in a few different ways (/ˈkjuːmᵻn/ or UK /ˈkʌmᵻn/, US /ˈkuːmᵻn/), scientific name Cuminum Cyminum. More commonly pronounced “coo-min” or “que-min”. Hear the more common cumin pronunciations:
What is Cumin?
The cumin plant grows to approximately 12 to 20 inches in height with multiple, similarly-sized branches sprouting from the stem creating a uniform canopy top. The flowers on top can be white or pink and are small in size. The cumin seed closely resembles the caraway seed and like the caraway seed is a part of the Umbelliferae family which additionally includes dill and parsley.
What Does Cumin Taste Like?
Cumin has a warm, nutty, earthy flavor that pairs well with other warm spices like coriander, cinnamon, and chilies.
Health Benefits of Cumin
Digestion: Cumin is great for aiding in digestion. Does your mouth water when you make tacos? The smell alone in cumin triggers our salivary glands in our mouth which helps facilitate the ingestion and digestion processes. Cumin also contains properties that relieves tummy troubles (i.e. gas).
Weight loss: New studies show that cumin can help boost weight loss, decrease body fat, and improve cholesterol levels due to cumin’s high levels of phytosterols which are plant chemicals known to slow down the absorption of cholesterol in the body.
Hemorrhoids: Due to high levels of dietary fiber and other natural properties, cumin acts as a laxative speeding up digestion and aiding in excretion.
Insomnia: Cumin, while a stimulant and simultaneously a relaxant, is rich in vitamin B, has been found to aid with digestion thereby assisting in sleep induction.
Common Cold: Viral infections, such as the common cold, affect our body when our immune system has been suppressed in some capacity. Cumin assists in drying up excess mucus not giving way to cough development. Rich in iron and vitamin C, cumin adds key essentials for health, and for an immune system riddled with the common cold, gives a much needed boost.
Lactation: Rich in iron, cumin gives lactating moms a strong boost. It is also said to increase milk secretion due to the presence of thymol in cumin.
Women’s health: Iron (which cumin is rich in) is needed during key times during women’s lives. Women experiencing menses, lactation (see above), or are pregnant need added iron in their diets. Furthermore, cumin can be utilized as a natural way to reduce nausea during pregnancy.
Anemia: Due to the iron-richness, cumin is a great source for anemics which can aid in the common symptoms such as anxiety, cognitive malfunction, fatigue, and digestive issues.
Skin: Cumin has a strong vitamin E presence which is widely-known to assist in the maintenance of skin and prevention of aging symptoms. Vitamin E has been known to act as an antioxidant, which help fight signs of premature aging such as wrinkles, age spots, and sagginess.
Respiratory Disorders: The caffeine and aromatic essential oils that are present in cumin act as an expectorant loosening up phlegm and mucus in the respiratory tract. It makes coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and spitting an easier feat and additionally can inhibit additional formation of new phlegm and mucus from forming.
Cognitive Malfunction: The iron richness in cumin increases hemoglobin production thereby increasing blood flow. The caffeine in cumin additionally adds to higher level of concentration since more amounts of oxygen are able to reach organs and the brain leading to optimal performance of those systems.
Cancer: Cumin has been found to have anticarcinogenic properties that are especially good for colon cancer prevention.
Cumin has a strong flavor that can come off as bitter to some people, so it should be used sparingly. Less than a teaspoon of cumin will be plentiful in a meal prepared for four. Pairs well with:
- Chicken Seasoning Blend Recipe
- Roast Adobo Pork Loin Recipe
- Restaurant-Style Taco Meat Seasoning Recipe
How to Plant and Grow Cumin
Cumin is grown from a seed where climate is hot. It can be grown in cooler temperatures if the seed is started underneath the grass during springtime. Best practice steps for planting, growing, and harvesting your cumin.
- Begin in the February/March time frame
- Choose sandy soil
- Allow the cumin seedlings to harden then carefully move to a sunnier area
- Ensure there are a few inches space between each cumin seedling
- Seed frequently
- The cumin plants will begin flowing in June and July which is approximately four months after planting
- When the cumin seeds begin to brown, cut them, thresh, and dry them out
Cumin Preparation MethodsSeeds should be roasted lightly before being ground or used whole to enhance the aromatic properties of cumin.
How to Store Cumin
Airtight containers are best. Keep in a cool, dry, dark area.
Where Can I Buy Cumin?
- Ground cumin is commonly available at your local grocery store.
- If you want to buy it online, whole or ground, try, Penzey’s.
Substitutes for Cumin
- Caraway seeds (use half as much)
- Caraway seeds plus anise seeds
- Chili powder
- Amber cumin seeds may be substituted for white or black cumin seeds
What is the history of Cumin?
The cumin seed’s origins can be traced from ancient Egypt and was then cultivated in India, the Middle East, China and eastern Mediterranean. In the past, cumin was used for many reasons including a culinary spice, medicinal purposes, and as a cultural symbol. Additionally, it was a popular culinary ingredient in ancient Rome and widely used in Europe during the middle ages. Spanish and Portuguese explorers introduced the spice to the Americas where like India and the Middle East has remained popular. Today, cumin is experiencing a renewed appreciation for its culinary properties and health benefits.
Fun Cumin Facts
- Ancient egyptian civilizations used the spice in cooking as well as a preservative in mummification.
- In ancient Greece, cumin would be placed at the dinner table during meals much like salt and pepper today on our tables; this practice of cumin at the dinner table continues today in Morocco.
- Most dictionaries suggest that the pronunciation is 'come-in,' although most professional chefs pronounce it 'coo-min' or 'que-min'.
- Cumin can be white, black, or amber; amber is the most common and widely available.
- In ancient Rome, cumin symbolized greed therefore the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius was privately known as “Cuminus”.
- The Indian word jeera usually connotes cumin but occasionally can also mean caraway which adds to confusion between the two spices especially since both seeds look similar.
- During the Middle Ages in Europe, cumin became synonymous as a symbol of love and fidelity. To attend wedding ceremonies, pant pockets would be filled cumin and soldiers’ wives would send their husbands off to war with a loaf of cumin bread.
Cumin in Other Languages
- French: cumin
- German: Kreuzkümmel, Romische Kümmel
- Italian: cumino Spanish: comino
- Arabic: kammun, kemouyn
- Indian: jeera, jeraka, jira, zeera, zira, sufaid…, safed…(white), kala…(black), kalonji(cf Nigella)
- Indonesian: (d)jinten
- Malay: jintan puteh
- Sinhalese: cheeregum, jeera, su(du)duru
- Tamil: cheeregum