What is Cumin?
Cumin is native to the Levant and Upper Egypt. It now grows in most hot countries, especially India, North Africa, China and the Americas. The spice is especially associated with Morocco, where it is often the fragrance of the abundant street cookery of the medinas.
In Indian recipes, cumin is frequently confused with caraway, which it resembles in appearance though not in taste, cumin being far more powerful. This is due to a misunderstanding of the Indian word jeera.
The use of the terms ‘black cumin’ for nigella, and ‘sweet cumin’ for aniseed or fennel, further confounds this confusion. As a general rule interpret jeera or zeera (jira, zira) as cumin and kalonji as nigella. When the seeds themselves are in doubt, cumin is easily distinguished from the other Umbelliferae by its flavour, and its shape and colour is quite different from nigella.
Classically, cumin symbolised greed; thus the avaricious Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, came to be known privately as ‘Cuminus’
Preparation and Storage
The seeds should be lightly roasted before being used whole or ground to bring out the aroma. Cumin may also be pounded with other spices in mixtures such as curry powder. Ground cumin must be kept airtight, to retain its pungency. This spice should be used with restraint – it can exclude all the other flavours in a dish. Less than a teaspoon of it will flavour a meal for four.
Health Benefits of Cumin
Cumin is stomachic, diuretic, carminative, stimulant, astringent, emmenagogic and antispasmodic. It is valuable in dyspepsia diarrhoea and hoarseness, and may relieve flatulence and colic. In the West, it is now used mainly in veterinary medicine, as a carminative, but it remains a traditional herbal remedy in the East. It is supposed to increase lactation and reduce nausea in pregnancy.
It has been shown to be effective in treating carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as diarrhea, indigestion, and morning sickness. Cumin also shows promise as a natural way to increase breast size. Used in a poultice, it relieves swelling of the breast or the testicles. Cumin stimulates the appetite.
Anise Acre, Cumin Acre, Cummin, Sweet 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)
Malay: jintan puteh
Sinhalese: cheeregum, jeera, su(du)duru
Nutrition facts of Cumin Seed-