Cumin botanically known as Cuminum cyminum is a flowering plaint from the Apiaceae family. Native to Egypt and had been cultivated in the Middle East, India, China and the Mediterranean for millennia. The cumin seeds are extensively either used just like that or in ground form in various cuisines.
The word cumin is derived from the latin word cuminum which means the Romanization of the Greek. Although the small cumin seed looks rather unassuming, its nutty peppery flavor packs a punch when it comes to adding a nutty and peppery flavor to chili and other Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes as well playing an important role in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine where it is a key component of curry powder. Both whole and ground cumin are available year-round.
Cumin seeds look very similar to caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color as both cumin and caraway, as well as parsley and dill, belong to the same plant family (Umbelliferae). Cumin plays an important role in our daily cooking and has various medicinal properties and has been a cultural symbol with varied attributes.
Cumin was mentioned in the Bible not only as a seasoning for soup and bread, but also as a currency used to pay tithes to the priests. It was highly honored as a culinary seasoning in both ancient Greek and Roman kitchens. Its popularity was partly due to its peppery flavor which made it a viable replacement for black pepper. Cumin is popularly known for both its medicinal and cosmetic properties. In ancient Egypt, apart from being used as a culinary spice, it was also an ingredient used to mummify pharaohs.
Cumin is the dried seed of Cuminum cyminum herb, a member of the parsley family. It grows to about 30–50 cm (0.98–1.6 ft) tall and is harvested by hand. It is an herbaceous annual plant, with a slender branched stem which is 20–30 cm tall. The leaves are 5–10 cm long, pinnate or bipinnate, thread-like leaflets. The flowers are small, white or pink, and borne in umbels. The fruit is a lateral fusiform or ovoid achene 4–5 mm long, containing a single seed.
Cultivation of cumin requires a long, hot summer of 3–4 months, with daytime temperatures around 30 °C (86 °F); it is drought-tolerant, and is mostly grown in Mediterranean climates. It is grown from seed, sown in spring, and needs fertile, well-drained soil.
Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world and used as a spice for its distinctive aroma, popular in Indian, Pakistani, North African, Middle Eastern, Sri Lankan, Cuban, northern Mexican cuisines, central Asian Uzbek cuisine, and the western Chinese cuisines of Sichuan. It is commonly used in traditional Brazilian cuisine. Cumin can be an ingredient in chili powder (often Texan or Mexican-style), and is found in garam masalas and curry powders. Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine. It helps to add an earthy and warming feeling to cooking, making it a staple in certain stews and soups, as well as curries and chilli.
Cumin has amazing medicinal properties. In South Asia, cumin tea (dry seeds boiled in hot water) is used to distinguish false labour (due to flatuence) from real labour. In Kerala they add cumin seed to and then boil the water and drink that as it is believed to be good for digestion. Jeera Rice is one of the popular dish that is available in most of the dhabas and restaurants.
People in parts of South Asia commonly believe cumin seeds help with digestion. Cumin seeds are a very good source of iron and a good source of manganese. Cumin’s distinctive flavour and strong, warm aroma is due to its essential oil content. Its main constituent and important aroma compound is cuminaldehyde (4-isopropylbenzaldehyde). Important aroma compounds of toasted cumin are the substituted pyrazines, 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, and 2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine.
Cumin is extremely good for digestion and related problems. It is also a Carminative i.e. relieves from you from gas troubles and thereby improves digestion and appetite. Due to its essential oils, magnesium and sodium content, it promotes digestion and also gives relief in stomach-ache when taken with hot water (like aqua ptycotis and mint).
Cumin, because of its dietary fiber content and carminative, stimulating, anti fungal and anti microbial properties due to the presence of essential oils comprising mainly of Cuminaldehyde and certain pyrazines, acts as a natural laxative in powdered form, helps healing up of infections or wounds in the digestive & excretory system and speeds up digestion too.
The nutritional values per 100 g of cumin seeds are:
Energy: 1.567 kJ (375 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 44.24 g
Sugars: 2.25 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.5 g
Fat: 22.27 g
Protein: 17.81 g
Water: 8.06 g