Cumin is an annual, herbaceousÂ flowering plant with slender stemsÂ native to the eastern Mediterranean region.Â The leaves of the cumin plant are 5-10 cm long with thread-like leaflets. The flowers are small and bloom in pink or white.Â The seeds are similar to that of fennel but are smaller & darker.Â Cumin seeds are used as a spice in North African, Middle Eastern, western Chinese, Indian and Mexican cuisine.Â Preferring a hot climate, cumin is mostly grown today inÂ Iran, Morocco, Egypt, India, Syria, Mexico & Chile.
Cumin is usually found in Indian & Mexican food & always in my chili.Â Cumin can be found in some Dutch cheeses, which I recently tasted & loved, and in some traditional French breads.Â You can add cumin to just about anything.Â It is traditionally added to curries, tacos & Cuban dishes.Â For an excellentÂ salsa,Â add a dash of cumin & enjoy the sweet flavor.
As for the history, cumin has been grown as a spice since ancient times.Â The spice was originally cultivated in Iran and made its way to the good life in Greece & Italy.Â The Greeks keep cumin as many keep salt & pepper, always on the table for ready-to-go use.Â Â The name cumin hasÂ an interestingÂ history. The English form of the word goes back to the Latin ‘cuminum’.Â Yet the Greek word seems to have been borrowed from a Semitic source, as is attested in Akkadian.Â Â
Folklore wedsÂ the wordÂ to the Persian city of Kerman.Â The story goes that mostÂ of ancientÂ Persia’s cumin was cultivated in this city and thus the Persian expression “carrying cumin to Kerman”Â which has the same meaning as theÂ English phrase “carrying coals to Newcastle“. Kerman, locally called Kermun, would have became Kumun and then cumin in the European languages.
Fascinating.Â I love digging up the history.
Stay tuned for my ‘Cumin-Infused Rice Recipe’.