Cumin (pron.: // or UK //, US //; sometimes spelled cummin; Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds (each one contained within a fruit, which is dried) are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form.
The English "cumin" derives from the Old English cymen (or Old French cumin), from Latin cuminum, which is the latinisation of the Greek κύμινον (kuminon), cognate with Hebrew כמון (kammon) and Arabic كمون (kammun). Forms of this word are attested in several ancient Semitic languages, including kamūnu in Akkadian. The ultimate source is the Sumerian word gamun. The earliest attested form of the word κύμινον (kuminon) is the Mycenaean Greek ku-mi-no, written in Linear B syllabic script.
Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. The cumin plant grows to 30–50 cm (0.98–1.6 ft) tall and is harvested by hand. It is an annual herbaceous plant, with a slender, branched stem 20–30 cm tall. The leaves are 5–10 cm long, pinnate or bipinnate, with thread-like leaflets. The flowers are small, white or pink, and borne in umbels. The fruit is a lateral fusiform or ovoid achene 4–5 mm long, containing a single seed. 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 has been in use since ancient times. Seeds excavated at the Syrian site Tell ed-Der have been dated to the second millennium BC. They have also been reported from several New Kingdom levels of ancient Egyptian archaeological sites.
Originally cultivated in Iran and Mediterranean region, cumin is mentioned in the Bible in both the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:27) and the New Testament (Matthew 23:23). 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. It was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. There are several different types of cumin but the most famous ones are black and green cumin which are both used in Persian cuisine.
Today, it is mostly grown in India, Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Mexico, Chile, and China. The plant occurs as a rare casual in the British Isles, mainly in southern England, but the frequency of its occurrence has declined greatly. According to the Botanical Society of the British Isles' most recent Atlas, only one record has been confirmed since 2000.
In India, cumin has been used for millennia as a traditional ingredient of innumerable kormas, masalas, soups and other spiced gravies.
Cultivation of cumin requires a long, hot summer of three to four months, with daytime temperatures around 30 °C (86 °F); it is drought-tolerant, and is mostly grown in Mediterranean climates. It is grown from seed, sown in spring, and needs fertile, well-drained soil.
Cumin seeds are used as a spice for their distinctive flavour and aroma. It is globally popular and an essential flavouring in many cuisines, particularly South Asian, Northern African and Latin American cuisines. Cumin can be found in some Dutch cheeses, such as Leyden cheese, and in some traditional breads from France. It is commonly used in traditional Brazilian cuisine. Cumin can be an ingredient in chili powder (often Tex-Mex or Mexican-style), and is found in achiote blends, adobos, sofrito, garam masala, curry powder, and bahaarat.
Cumin can be used ground or as whole seeds. It helps to add an earthy and warming feeling to food, making it a staple in certain stews and soups, as well as spiced gravies such as chili.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,567 kJ (375 kcal)|
|- Sugars||2.25 g|
|- Dietary fiber||10.5 g|
|- saturated||1.535 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||64 μg (8%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.327 mg (27%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||4.579 mg (31%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.435 mg (33%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||10 μg (3%)|
|Vitamin B12||0 μg (0%)|
|Vitamin C||7.7 mg (9%)|
|Vitamin E||3.33 mg (22%)|
|Vitamin K||5.4 μg (5%)|
|Calcium||931 mg (93%)|
|Iron||66.36 mg (510%)|
|Magnesium||366 mg (103%)|
|Phosphorus||499 mg (71%)|
|Potassium||1788 mg (38%)|
|Sodium||168 mg (11%)|
|Zinc||4.8 mg (51%)|
|Percentages are relative to|
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Although cumin seeds contain a relatively large percentage of iron, extremely large quantities of cumin would need to be consumed for it to serve as a significant dietary source (see nutrition data).
According to the USDA, one tablespoon of cumin spice contains:
- Calories (kcal): 22
- Fat (g): 1.34
- Carbohydrates (g): 2.63
- Fiber (g): 0.6
- Protein (g): 1.07
Confusion with other spices
Cumin is sometimes confused with caraway (Carum carvi), another umbelliferous spice. Cumin, though, is hotter to the taste, lighter in color, and larger. Many European languages do not distinguish clearly between the two. Many Slavic and Uralic languages refer to cumin as "Roman caraway". Examples include Czech: kmín – caraway, římský kmín -cumin; Polish: kminek – caraway, kmin rzymski – cumin; Hungarian: kömény – caraway, római kömény – cumin. Finnish: kumina – caraway, roomankumina – cumin, although sometimes also called juustokumina, cheese caraway. In Norwegian, caraway is called both karve and kummin/kømming while cumin is spisskummen, from the word spise, to eat. Similarly in Swedish and Danish, caraway is kummin/kommen, while cumin is spiskummin/spidskommen. In German, Kümmel stands for caraway and Kreuzkümmel denotes cumin. In Icelandic, caraway is kúmen, while cumin is kúmín. In Romanian, chimen is caraway, while chimion is cumin.
Cumin's distinctive flavour and strong, warm aroma are due to its essential oil content. Its main constituent aroma compounds are cuminaldehyde and cuminic alcohol. Other important aroma compounds of toasted cumin are the substituted pyrazines, 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, and 2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine. Other components include γ-terpinene, safranal, p-cymene and β-pinene.
|This section requires expansion. (July 2009)|
References in popular culture
- In the TV show Drake and Josh, Walter, Drake and Josh's father, has an allergic reaction to cumin after Drake accidentally put the spice, instead of cinnamon, in Walter's blueberry waffles, as seen in the Season 3 episode "The Affair".
- In season 7 episode 4 of How I Met Your Mother, Ted implores the importance of cumin with salt and pepper.
Notes and references
- "Cuminum cyminum information from NPGS/GRIN". www.ars-grin.gov. http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/html/taxon.pl?12617. Retrieved 2008-03-13.
- cuminum, Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, on Perseus Digital Library
- κύμινον, known as saunf or سونف in Pakistan. Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
- cumin, Online Etymology Dictionary
- "Kamūnu." premiumwanadoo.com.
- Anton Deimel, Orientalia Old Series 13 (1924) 330.
- Palaeolexicon, Word study tool of ancient languages
- Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), p. 206
- Search the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Nal.usda.gov. Retrieved on 2011-11-26.
- Li, Rong; Zi-Tao Jiang (2004). "Chemical composition of the essential oil of Cuminum cyminum L. from China". Flavour and Fragrance Journal 19 (4): 311–313. doi:10.1002/ffj.1302.
- Wang, Lu et al. (2009). "Ultrasonic nebulization extraction coupled with headspace single drop microextraction and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry for analysis of the essential oil in Cuminum cyminum L". Analytica Chimica Acta 647 (1): 72–77. doi:10.1016/j.aca.2009.05.030. PMID 19576388.
- Iacobellis, Nicola S. et al. (2005). "Antibacterial Activity of Cuminum cyminum L. and Carum carvi L. Essential Oils". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53 (1): 57–61. doi:10.1021/jf0487351. PMID 15631509.