Sunday, November 22, 2009


About Cumin
Cumin is a popular spice particularly in Mexican, North African and Indian cuisines. You will most probably recognise the taste in the unique flavour of chilli con carne, where cumin is one the spices that gives this dish a hot, peppery and spicy kick.

The cumin plant
Cumin is available in two forms, the whole form, which is the cumin seed, or the ground form of the spice.

The cumin plant, Cuminum cyminum is native to the shores of the Mediterranean, including the upper regions of Egypt, where is has been cultivated for thousands of years. Nowadays, it is commercially grown in several surrounding countries such as Iran, Turkey and Syria, as well as other hot countries further a field, namely China, India and Latin America.

The cumin spice is the dried seed of the cumin plant, which is why cumin is also known as cumin seeds and is available in this form. The cumin plant comes from the same plant family as parsley and it is also related to fennel, coriander and dill.

The history of cumin
Cumin is an age-old spice that was favoured by the Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and particularly the Romans. It is mentioned a number of times in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and the New.

This spice was not only used as a seasoning but also as a method of payment for taxes and debts.

The Greeks and Romans used cumin in practically every dish, as it was a good substitute for black pepper, which was very expensive and often hard to obtain.

During Biblical times, cumin was used as an antiseptic but has been more recently recognised as an excellent digestive and stomach disorder settler.

Culinary uses of cumin
Cumin is a major spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. It can be used to flavour most meat dishes and is also good with some types of fish.

Whole cumin seeds are often added to lentil and pulse dishes. To bring out the best flavour of the seeds, they are usually toasted in a dry frying pan or with a little butter before adding to other ingredients.

Below are a number of ideas on how to use cumin, whole or ground in your cooking.
  • Cumin is a must for chilli con carne and other Tex-Mex dishes.
  • Add to citrus-flavoured meat or poultry marinades.
  • Use as a rub for lamb or pork.
  • Cumin partners chilli very well.
  • Use cumin for barbeque sauces and marinades.
  • Add cumin seeds to bread or muffin dough or batters.
  • Sprinkle ground cumin into a cheese omelette mixture.
  • Fry with onions and use to flavour lentils.
  • Mix with olive oil and pour over stir-fried vegetables.
  • Add cumin to rice or couscous for an exotic flavour.
  • Add cumin to hot and spicy soups or sauces.
  • Use in curries and chillies.
  • Use in lamb or pork casseroles and stews.
  • Cumin is used in pickles and chutneys.
  • Cumin goes well with vegetables such as courgettes and aubergines.
  • Cumin is used in Falafel, deep-fried chickpea and spice balls.
  • Cumin also goes well with fried or roast potatoes.
  • Use cumin in spicy salads.
Storing cumin
In a cool, dark area.

Medicinal uses of cumin
Cumin has been used therapeutically for thousands of years and it has a number of healing and curative properties that are listed below. Researchers today are now beginning to look at the components of cumin and study the beneficial effects that cumin has on the body.

Although cumin has long been known for its digestive properties, there are also many other ways in which cumin is said to keep the body healthy and heal the unhealthy body.
  • Cumin is a very good source of iron, which is needed to transport oxygen to all the cells within the body.
  • Cumin helps the body to absorb nutrients efficiently.
  • It is said to be a good general tonic and stimulant for the body.
  • It has been used to treat chest and lung disorders such as pneumonia and coughs.
  • Researchers are studying the anti-carcinogenic properties of cumin. It is found to prevent liver and stomach tumours forming in animals.
  • A paste made from cumin seeds and peppermint oil placed on the abdomen is said to relieve abdominal pains and liver disorders.
  • Cumin relieves flatulence, bloating, gas and other related stomach ailments.
  • Cumin is a diuretic.
  • It can relax muscles and prevent muscle cramps.
  • Cumin is said to help mothers produce more milk to feed their newborn babies.
  • Cumin is sometimes used as an antiseptic and also has antibacterial properties.
  • Cumin can reduce nausea and sickness, even during pregnancy.
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