What is Cumin?
Cumin is the seed of small plant native to the Levant area, or East Mediterranean and West Asia. It is commonly used as a spice especially in warmer countries like India, China, North Africa, and the Americas where it is grown.
Historically, cumins were first found in Egypt’s pyramids 5 millenniums ago. The Greeks and Romans used it for its medicinal properties and cosmetic effects on complexion. This particular spice is also commonly associated with Morocco, where one can smell its aroma on food stalls in the streets. Cumin was also tied to some superstitions during the middle ages. During that time, the seeds were said to help keep family or loved ones from straying, and grooms carry them as a good luck charm on wedding day.
Cumin seed has a dusty and bitter taste with a very distinct aroma. Usually they are light brown in color, but there are also black and white seeds. The white cumin seeds have more or less the same flavor with the regular brown ones, while the black seeds have a more spicy and peppery taste to it. In India, cumin is usually confused with “caraway seeds” because they look similar to each other. But in terms of taste, cumin is more powerful and spicy.
To prepare cumin, seeds are subjected to roasting and may be used in whole or grounded. This process will bring out the aroma of the seeds. Cumin can also be grounded and mixed with other spices, but one must make sure that they are stored in sealed containers to retain the pungent aroma and flavor. And since this spice is so powerful, only a small amount is needed when using it on various dishes, like curry dishes, stews, grills, and many other recipes where spice is wanted.
Cumin is also said to have medicinal properties. It is particularly helpful in persons with diarrhea, flatulence, and colic. Many also use it during pregnancy to help in lactation, relieve morning sickness, and reduce nausea or vomiting.