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Cumin Seeds

Introduction to Cumin Seeds
Cumin, also known as 'jeera' in India, is a widely used ingredient in Indian cuisines. It is referred to as the dried seed of 'Cuminum cyminum' that belongs to the parsley family. Cumin seeds are derived from the plant of cumin, a herbaceous annual plant, that has slender branched stems about 30 cm tall. Cumin seeds are a popular form of spice that are known for their aroma and are used in Indian, Pakistani, Cuban Mexican cuisine, etc. Some of the major market players of cumin seeds are Iran, India, Syria, Pakistan and Turkey.

Description of Cumin Seeds
Scientifically known as 'Cuminum cyminum', cumin seeds are oblong in shape with deep furrows and are yellowish brown in colour. These

seeds find similarity with anise and fennel seeds in terms of their appearance but are slightly darker in colour. Its flavour is peppery and penetrating, thus making it a widely used spice throughout India, Sri Lanka, Mexico and several other parts of the world. In fact, they resemble a lot like caraway seeds.

The two major types of cumin seeds found in the market are white cumin seeds and the black cumin seeds. The white cumin seeds are the most commonly found seeds that are used in cuisines. However, the black cumin seeds are smaller in shape than the white one and also have a sweet aroma.

History of Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are a native of Egypt and are about 5000 years old. They were used by Pharaohs in many forms such as food spice as well as to mummify the deceased kings. Later, the Greek and the Roman traders brought this spice to their nations, using it as a medicine. They were also used as a cosmetic to induce a pale complexion!!! In Rome, cumin seeds were used to replace the expensive forms of pepper. In the Bible, cumin is referred to as a form of payment or "tithe" given to priests.

Health Benefits of Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are a very good source of relieving digestive disorders. They are largely helpful in curing indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, etc. As the seeds of cumin are rich in antiseptic properties, they also help in reliving common cold. Research has also found the presence of anti-carcinogenic properties in cumin seeds that help in preventing stomach or liver tumors.

Cumin seeds are also a rich source of iron, a vital nutrient that helps in keeping the immune system healthy and strong. It is particularly beneficial for menstruating women who have a tendency to lose iron during the menstruating period.

Folklore Associated with Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds were not only a popular form of spices, but were also considered to ward off evil happenings. It was a belief that if cumin seeds were kept throughout a wedding ceremony, both the bride and the groom will have a very happy married life. According to a superstitious belief, during the Middle Ages, cumin seeds were believed to have kept the chicken as well as lovers from wandering.

Recipe for Making Cumin Rice
Cumin rice is a popular north Indian vegetarian cuisine that ideally serves the dual purpose of taste and health. For preparing cumin rice, the following ingredients are used:

  • 2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • Salt and lime juice as per taste

In a heavy bottomed vessel, put ghee and heat it on a medium level for at least 2 minutes. Then, add cumin seeds and fry them for at least 2 minutes till they start to splutter. As they are spluttering, add rice, lime juice, water & salt and mix them well. Boil this mixture on a high heat. Cover the vessel and cook it a low heat for at least 15 minutes till the time all the water present inside evaporates. Serve hot.