Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. Cumin has been in use since ancient times. Originally cultivated in Iran and Mediterranean region. It now grows in most hot countries, especially India, North Africa, China and the Americas. Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color, like other members of the Umbelliferae family such as caraway, parsley and dill.
Cumin can be used ground or as whole seeds.
Culinary uses :
Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper. Cumin seeds are used as a spice for their distinctive aroma, popular in Indian, Eastern, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Portuguese and Spanish cookery.
Medicinal uses :
In Asia cumin tea is used to soothe acute stomach problems.
Cumin is stomachic, diuretic, carminative, stimulant, astringent, emmenagogic and antispasmodic. It is valuable in dyspepsia diarrhoea and hoarseness, and may relieve flatulence and colic.
Cumin has a distinctive flavour and strong, warm aroma. It is powerful, sharp and slightly bitter.
Cumin is hotter to the taste, lighter in colour, and larger than caraway (Carum carvi), another umbelliferous spice with which it is sometimes confused.
Other names :
Jeera, jeraka, jira, zeera, zira, sufaid…, safed…(white), kala…(black), kalonji(cf Nigella)