Cuminum Cyminum has a richness of history that gives it a special place in the world of spices. The seeds are used as a spice for their distinctive flavour and aroma, they are typically dried and ground to a powder, and used as a condiment. Cumin is considered the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper.
Cumin is globally popular and an essential flavouring in many cuisines, particularly South Asian, Northern African and Latin American cuisines. It is an ingredient in curry powder, or for flavouring pickles pastry and soups. In Europe, Cumin can be found in some cheeses, such as Leyden cheese and is used as an ingredient in pickles and pastries, stews and soups and in some traditional breads from France.
Cumin is annual plant, a member of the umbelliferae family, along with caraway, parsley and dill. Native to the Mediterranean, Northern Africa, and from the Middle East to India, where it is grown through the cooler months of the year, it can also be easily grown in cooler climates. The plants grow best grown at temperatures between 20 to 30°C (68 to 80°F) and like lots of water. They do well in damp conditions so long as they have excellent drainage.
Cumin plants grow 15 to 30cm (6 to 12in) tall and have thin, slender dark green leaves and pink or white flowers. The seeds resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in colour. The seeds have a nutty, peppery, pungent flavour with a rich aroma and high oil content that helps to add an earthy and warming feeling to recipes. This versatile spice makes a wonderful addition to any herb garden and does wonders in the kitchen.
Cumin is an annual herb that requires a moderately cool climate. The optimum growth temperature ranges between 20 to 30°C (68 to 80°C), the crop needs three to four months of sunshine and takes 100 to 150 days to harvest.
High temperatures reduce the growth period and induce early ripening, so in hot areas of the world Cumin is grown through the cooler months of the year, in India, Cumin is sown from October until the beginning of December, with harvesting starting in February.
In cooler areas of the world Cumin can be grown as a summer annual but the seeds must be started indoors several weeks early in order to allow enough time for seeds to mature prior to the first autumn frost. At low temperatures, leaf colour changes from green to purple.
Cumin plants should be planted in a position of full sun with a moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Cumin can tolerate a soil pH of 4.5 to 8.0 but prefer a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. They grow best in hot weather and are drought tolerant, they do well in damp conditions so long as they have excellent drainage.
While the plants like lots of water, they do not like to sit with wet feet so container growing or raised beds are preferred but a garden bed with good soil should work fine. Amend garden soil with plenty of mature compost to improve fertility and drainage.
Cumin can also grows in containers but they need to be at least 15cm (6in) in diameter and 10cm (4in) deep. You can keep them indoors but only if you have a bright enough window otherwise the plants will grow leggy and weak.
Plan on growing many plants. It takes a lot of plants to produce the seeds you will need. Grow these plants in groups or clumps, cumin actually benefit from a little crowding. The plants help support each other, keeping the plant from bending over and touching the ground.
Expect your plants to reach up to 50cm (20in) high under ideal conditions, but likely won’t grow much more than 30cm (12in) foot in cooler areas. White or pink blooms should appear around mid-summer.
Sowing: Sow in spring.
Seeds can be sown early indoors at least four weeks prior to the last frost in the spring and transplanted outside after the last frost date. Harden off indoor plants before setting them outside.
Otherwise they can be sown directly where they are to grow once temperatures regularly reach 16°C (60°F).
Cumin seeds should be sown very shallow, only about 5mm (¼in) deep. Moisten the soil regularly until germination. Seedlings should emerge in 7 to 14 days when soil temperatures are 18°C (65°F).
Once the seedlings reach about 2 or 3cm (1in) tall, thin them out so there is only plant every 10cm (4in) or so.
Cumin can handle drought but it’s best to water them moderately. Give them a good long soak at least once per week when it’s not raining. Try not to let the soil completely dry out between each watering. Water container crops more often because they will dry out fast.
Avoid feeding with high nitrogen fertiliser, high nitrogen soils result in less fragrant, or aromatic seeds, but a compost tea should do well throughout the growing season.
You may need to protect your developing cumin pods from birds and other seed-eating pests. Otherwise, the cumin plant is not particularly susceptible to disease or insects if it is well taken care of.
Cumin takes 100 to 150 days to harvest. Watch for seed pods to turn brown and dry. When this happens, the pods open up and spill their seeds onto a cloth placed on the ground.
Often, the pods will not turn dry all at once. The trick is to harvest the pods when the first ones are about to spill their seeds. Harvesting the plants and hang them up in a dry place, to allow them to completely dry.
To harvest the seeds, tie the plants together and place them in a bag. Beat the bag to open the pods, releasing the seeds. Then, sift the captured seeds outdoors during a light breeze, to remove the chafe. Store the dried seeds in an air-tight container.
Cumin is popular in a wide variety of Mediterranean, Middle East, Indian and Mexican cuisines. The seeds are used ground or whole. It is used in everything from meats, potatoes, and vegetables, to couscous and Enchiladas. It is an important ingredient in Indian Curry, Kebabs, and in soups and stews. It is also used in some teas.
Cumin works well for digestive disorders, it helps control stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhoea, nausea and morning sickness. Cumin can be used in the treatment of piles due to its fibre content, anti-fungal, laxative and carminative properties.
The antiseptic properties of cumin can help fight flu, by boosting the immune system. A cup of water boiled with cumin seeds, ginger, basil leaves and honey, can give great relief.
Cuminum Cyminum, Cumin has been in use since ancient times and most probably originated in Egypt, Turkmenistan and the east Mediterranean. The earliest uses originates in the Nile Valley in Ancient Egypt. In ancient Egyptian civilisation cumin was used as spice and as preservative in mummification.
It is mentioned in the Bible in both the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:27) and the New Testament (Matthew 23:23). Seeds excavated in India have been dated to the second millennium BC.
The ancient Greeks kept cumin at the dining table in its own container, much as pepper is frequently kept today, and this practice continues in Morocco. Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine. In India, it has been used for millennia as a traditional ingredient of innumerable kormas, masalas, and soups, and forms the basis of many other spice blends. It was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists.
Since Cumin is often used as part of birdseed and exported to many countries, the plant can occur as a rare casual in many territories. Cumin occurs as a rare casual in the British Isles, mainly in Southern England; but the frequency of its occurrence has declined greatly.
Cumin has several different possible name origins, many coming from Arabic words due to the spice’s history in Persia. The oldest reference relates to the Sumarian word gamun.
The species name Cuminum and the English common name of Cumin both derive from the Old English, from the Latin cuminum, which is the Latinisation of the Greek kyminon.
In Sanskrit, Cumin is known as Jira, which means ‘that which helps digestion’. A popular drink in southern India is called Jira water, is made by boiling cumin seeds in water.
In Myanmar, Cumin is known as Zi yar
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 grams Average Seed Count 200 Seeds Common Name Jira or Zi yar Family Apiaceae Genus Cuminum Species cyminum Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Flowers Early to Mid Summer Foliage Mid Green Height 15 to 30cm (6 to 12in) Position Needs a warm sunny spot