What is cumin
What is cumin: Cumin is a spice that has been used for thousands of years and is ingrained in the culture of many countries around the world. Originally cultivated in Iran and the Mediterranean region, cumin is now mainly grown in China, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Iran, Tajikistan, Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Chile, Mexico and India.
Along with caraway and dill, cumin is a member of the parsley family. Its botanical name is Suminum cyminum. It can be found as dried seeds or as a powder.
In ancient times, cumin was a basic ingredient that the Greeks kept preciously at hand, just as we keep salt and black pepper on our tables today. In Morocco, this tradition continues to this day.
In Egypt, it was used both as a spice and as a preservative for the mummification of the deceased. Cumin seeds have been found in archaeological sites in ancient Egypt. Cumin seeds dating back to the second millennium B.C. have also been found at an archaeological site in Syria.
Cumin is mentioned in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments.
Although the history of this spice is incredibly rich and long, India has perhaps appropriated cumin more than any other country in the world. Today, India is both the largest producer and consumer of cumin, accounting for approximately 70% of global production and 63% of global consumption.
Aromatic profile of cumin
Cumin has a unique complexity of aroma and flavor that few spices can match. It is slightly sweet, yet pungent and sharp. Cumin provides a heat that is not quite spicy, but rather adds an earthy, warming character to dishes.
Health Benefits of Cumin
Many herbs and spices have health benefits, but cumin is in a class of its own. With so many vitamins and trace elements essential to our health, it is easy to see why this spice has so many health and wellness benefits.
Cumin contains high concentrations of the following vitamins :
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Vitamin E
Cumin also contains very high amounts of the following trace elements :
Cumin, due to its nutritional value, is known to be beneficial in preventing or treating a variety of health problems, such as :
- Respiratory disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Lactation problems
- Skin diseases
Moreover, cumin is said to have antioxidant properties, which protect against infections and strengthen the immune system. It is also said that cumin helps to have a healthier skin and a more radiant complexion.
Culinary uses of cumin
Cumin is an essential ingredient in the cuisines of South Asia, Latin America, North Africa and Brazil. Cumin lends itself particularly well to Mexican, Tex-Mex and Indian cuisine. Depending on the recipe, you will use cumin seeds and cumin powder differently.
Whole cumin seeds should be added at the beginning of a recipe so that they have time to release their aroma. For example, they are ideal for flavoring a broth, in which they can then infuse their aroma and flavor throughout the dish.
Cumin powder is the spice of choice in many spice blends, including curry powder, garam masala and baharat. It is also used in dry marinades, to season tacos or to flavor vegetable dishes or kebabs. Moroccans always keep powdered cumin on their table, and use it as a seasoning for most meals.
If you replace the whole seeds with cumin powder (or vice versa), you will need to add different amounts. Because the flavor of powdered cumin is more concentrated than whole cumin seeds, you will need to use less of it in your dish. For a recipe that calls for 1 tablespoon of cumin powder, use 1 1⁄4 tablespoon of cumin seeds (25% more).