Cumin: Wikis


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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Cuminum
Species: C. cyminum
Binomial name
Cuminum cyminum

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum, pronounced /ˈkjuːmɨn/ or UK: /ˈkʌmɨn/, US: /ˈkuːmɨn/, and sometimes spelled cummin) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to East India.



The English "cumin" derives from the French "cumin", which was borrowed indirectly from Arabic "كمون" Kammūn via Spanish comino during the Arab rule in Spain in the 15th century. The spice is native to Arabic-speaking Syria where cumin thrives in its hot and arid lands, thus making a hot white substance. Cumin seeds have been found in some ancient Syrian archeological sites. The word found its way from Syria to neighbouring Turkey and nearby Greece most likely before it found its way to Spain. Like many other Arabic words in the English language, cumin was acquired by Western Europe via Spain rather than the Grecian route. Some suggest that the word is derived from the Latin cuminum and Greek κύμινον. The Greek term itself has been borrowed from Arabic.[citation needed] Forms of this word are attested in several ancient Semitic languages, including kamūnu in Akkadian.[2] The ultimate source is believed to be the Sumerian word gamun.[3]

A folk etymology connects the word with the Persian city Kerman where, the story goes, most of ancient Persia's cumin was produced. For the Persians the expression "carrying cumin to Kerman" has the same meaning as the English language phrase "carrying coals to Newcastle". Kerman, locally called "Kermun", would have become "Kumun" and finally "cumin" in the European languages.

In Northern India and Nepal, cumin is known as jeera (Devanagari जीरा) or jira, while in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan it is known as zeera (Persian زيره); in Southern India it is called "Jeerakam" ( ജീരകം ) in Malayalam and Jeerige ( ಜೀರಿಗೆ in ಕನ್ನಡ (Kannada)) or jeeragam or seeragam (Tamil (ஜீரகம்/சீரகம்)) or jilakarra (Telugu); in Sri Lanka it is known as duru (දුරු), the white variety being suduru (සූදුරු) and the large variety, maduru (මාදුරු); in Iran, South Asia and Central Asia, cumin is known as zireh; in Turkey, cumin is known as kimyon; in northwestern China, cumin is known as ziran (孜然). In Arabic, it is known as al-kammūn (الكمون). Cumin is called kemun in Ethiopian, and is one of the ingredients in the spice mix berbere.


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 herbaceous annual plant, with a slender branched stem 20–30 cm tall. The leaves are 5–10 cm long, pinnate or bipinnate, 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 are similar to fennel and anise seeds in appearance, but are smaller and darker in color.

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 Seeds

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.[4]

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). It was also known in ancient Greece and Rome. The 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 fell out of favour in Europe except in Spain and Malta during the Middle Ages. It was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists.

Since returned to favour in parts of Europe, today it is mostly grown in Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, India, Syria, Mexico, and Chile. 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, there has been only one confirmed record since the year 2000.


Superstition during the Middle Ages cited that cumin kept chickens and lovers from wandering. It was also believed that a happy life awaited the bride and groom who carried cumin seed throughout the wedding ceremony.


Cuminum cyminum Linn.

Cultivation of cumin requires a long, hot summer of 3–4 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 is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper.[5] Cumin seeds are used as a spice for their distinctive aroma, popular in Indian, Pakistani, North African, Middle Eastern, Sri Lankan, Cuban, Northern Mexican cuisines, and the Western Chinese cuisines of Sichuan and Xinjiang. 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 (often Texan or Mexican-style) Chili powder, and is found in achiote blends, adobos, sofrito, garam masala, curry powder, and bahaarat.

Cumin can be used ground or as whole seeds, as it draws out their natural sweetnesses. It is traditionally added to chili, curries, and other Middle-Eastern, Indian, Cuban and Tex-Mex foods. Cumin has also been used on meat in addition to other common seasonings. It is not common in Mexican cuisine. However, the spice is a common taste in Tex-Mex dishes. It is extensively used in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent. Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine. Cumin is typically used in Mediterranean cooking from Spanish, Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It helps to add an earthy and warming feeling to cooking making it a staple in certain stews and soups.


In South Asia, cumin tea (dry seeds boiled in hot water) is used to distinguish false labour (due to gas) from real labour.

In Sri Lanka, toasting cumin seeds and then boiling them in water makes a tea used to soothe acute stomach problems.

It is commonly believed in parts of South Asia that cumin seeds help with digestion. No scientific evidence seems to suggest this is the case.

Nutritional value

Cumin seeds
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,567 kJ (375 kcal)
Carbohydrates 44.24 g
Sugars 2.25 g
Dietary fiber 10.5 g
Fat 22.27 g
saturated 1.535 g
Protein 17.81 g
Water 8.06 g
Vitamin A equiv. 64 μg (7%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.327 mg (22%)
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 (13%)
Vitamin E 3.33 mg (22%)
Vitamin K 5.4 μg (5%)
Calcium 931 mg (93%)
Iron 66.36 mg (531%)
Magnesium 366 mg (99%)
Phosphorus 499 mg (71%)
Potassium 1788 mg (38%)
Sodium 168 mg (7%)
Zinc 4.8 mg (48%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

Cumin seeds contain a relatively large percentage amount of iron. However, unless one would eat about 15 grams (1/2 oz) per day, cumin is not likely to be a significant dietary source of iron.

Confusion with other spices

Black Cumin seeds

Cumin is hotter to the taste, lighter in color, and larger than caraway (Carum carvi), another umbelliferous spice with which it is sometimes confused. Many European languages do not distinguish clearly between the two. For example, in Czech caraway is called 'kmín' while cumin is called 'římský kmín' or "Roman caraway". The distinction is practically the same in Hungarian ("kömény" for caraway and "római kömény" [Roman caraway] for cumin). In Polish the difference is even less significant- caraway is 'kminek' and cumin is 'kmin rzymski', which is even more confusing as 'kminek' is a diminutive of 'kmin' (notice the -ek suffix, as in 'kot' - a cat and 'kotek' - a small cat). In Swedish, caraway is called "kummin" while cumin is "spiskummin", from the Swedish word "spisa", to eat, while in German "Kümmel" stands for caraway and "Kreuzkümmel" denotes cumin. In Finnish, caraway is called "kumina", while cumin is "roomankumina"(Roman caraway" or "juustokumina"(cheese caraway). Some older cookbooks erroneously name ground coriander as the same spice as ground cumin.[6]

The distantly related Bunium persicum and the unrelated Nigella sativa are both sometimes called black cumin (q.v.).

Not related to curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric.

Aroma profile

Cumin's distinctive flavour and strong, warm aroma is due to its essential oil content. Its main constituent and important aroma compound is cuminaldehyde (4-isopropylbenzaldehyde). Important aroma compounds of toasted cumin are the substituted pyrazines, 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, and 2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine.


Notes and references

  1. ^ "Cuminum cyminum information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  2. ^ "Kamūnu."
  3. ^ "KMN." American Heritage Dictionary (Fourth Edition), 2000.
  4. ^ Daniel Zohary and Maria Hopf, Domestication of plants in the Old World, third edition (Oxford: University Press, 2000), p. 206
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c 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. 
  8. ^ a b 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. 
  9. ^ a b 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. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CUMIN, or Cummin (Cuminum Cyminum) , an annual herbaceous plant, a member of the natural order Umbelliferae and probably a native of some part of western Asia, but scarcely known at the present time in a wild state. It was early cultivated in Arabia, India and China, and in the countries bordering the Mediterranean. Its stem is slender and branching, and about a foot in height; the leaves are deeply cut, with filiform segments; the flowers are small and white. The fruits, the so-called seeds, which constitute the cumin of pharmacy, are fusiform or ovoid in shape and compressed laterally; they are two lines long, are hotter to the taste, lighter in colour, and larger than caraway seeds, and have on each half nine fine ridges, overlying as many oil-channels or vittae. Their strong aromatic smell and warm bitterish taste are due to the presence of about 3% of an essential oil. The tissue of the seeds contains a fatty oil, with resin, mucilage and gum, malates and albuminous matter; and in the pericarp there is much tannin. The volatile oil of cumin, which may be separated by distillation of the seed with water, is mainly a mixture of cymol or cymene, C10H14, and cumic aldehyde, C 6 H 4 (C 3 H 7)COH. Cumin is mentioned in Isaiah xxviii. 25, 27, and Matthew xxiii. 23, and in the works of Hippocrates and Dioscorides. From Pliny we learn that the ancients took the ground seed medicinally with bread, water or wine, and that it was accounted the best of condiments as a remedy for squeamishness. It was found to occasion pallor of the face, whence the expression of Horace, exsangue cuminum (Epist. i. 19), and that of Persius, pallentis grana cumini (Sat. v. 55). Pliny relates the story that it was employed by the followers of Porcius Latro, the celebrated rhetorician, in order to produce a complexion such as bespeaks application to study (xx. 57). In the middle ages cumin was one of the commonest spices of European growth. Its average price per pound in England in the 13th and 14th centuries was 2d. or, at present value, about is. 4d. (Rogers, Hist. of Agric. and Prices, i. 631). It is stimulant and carminative, and is employed in the manufacture of curry powder. The medicinal use of the drug is now confined to veterinary practice. Cumin is exported from India, Mogador, Malta and Sicily.

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