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Cuminum cyminum

Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a plant in the parsley family. The seed can be used whole or ground in a powder, which imparts a stronger flavor than when used whole. The flavor is accentuated when the seeds are toasted and then ground. It has a distinctive, slightly bitter yet warm flavor. It imparts an earthy, warming and aromatic character to food, making it a staple in certain stews and soups, as well as spiced gravies such as curry and chili. It is also used as an ingredient in some pickles and pastries. It is often confused with caraway and anise.

Cumin can be found in some cheeses, such as Leyden cheese, and in some traditional breads from France. Cumin is used mainly where highly spiced foods are preferred. It features in Indian, Eastern, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Portuguese and Spanish cuisines. 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, bahaarat and is used to flavor numerous commercial food products. In South Asian cooking, it is often combined with coriander seeds in a powdered mixture called dhana jeera.

It gives a bite when added to rice or corn muffins. Heat some garlic and cumin with olive oil and pour over your vegetables or potatoes.  Cumin works great on marinades for beef, chicken, turkey, lamb or pork. Add to your beans or stews.  Do you have a recipe that requires cumin, but are out of it? You could replace it with caraway seeds, ground coriander, chili powder, garam masala, curry powder or even taco seasoning.

It is also known as:

  • English: Anise Acre, Cumin Acre, Cummin, Sweet Cumin and White cummin
  • French: cumin
  • German: Kreuzkümmel, Romische Kümmel
  • Italian: cumino
  • Spanish: comino
  • Portuguese: cominho
  • Arabic: kammun, kemouyn
  • Indian: jeera, jeraka, jira, zeera, zira, sufaid…, safed…(white), kala…(black), kalonji (cf Nigella)
  • Indonesian: (d)jinten
  • Malay: jintan puteh
  • Sinhalese: cheeregum, jeera, su(du)duru
  • Tamil: cheeregum
  • Turkish: Kimyon, Acem Kimyonu, Kemmon

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Cumin has been used to aid digestion, improve immunity, treat skin disorders and insomnia.

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