Earthy and warm, cumin provides the palette with a signature that is aromatic and distinct, sharpening and brightening any companion food item’s taste and smell.
Some, like myself, reach for the cumin when pondering depth of flavor or to give a dish a lift, only hesitating to decide whether or not to break out the mortar and pestle or use it in its whole seed form. As with other whole seed spices, I remain undecided and tend to toast them to a wonderful aroma, and then slightly crack them apart, either to blend with other spices or add directly to its host as I would fresh cracked pepper.
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum L.) is a spice of ages. Its appearance in human food history is a long one, almost mythical, and definitely biblical (e.g. Where its spelled ‘Cummin’). It can be found in the likes of Dutch cheeses, as a main staple of Indian curry and Mexican chili powder – a truly global ingredient.
Born from a plant within the parsley family, my layman’s eye sees the cumin plant having an appearance more closely resembling a weed (fennel like, but smaller). It’s the flowers on this plant that begets clusters of cumin seeds, which are then harvested, threshed, and left to dry in the sun.
Beyond its play upon the palette, cumin has been used in medicinal applications.
In ancient times, cumin, like many herbs and spices with unique properties, was used treat a variety of ailments, being ingested and applied topically. While many of the ailments are now treated with modern medicine, in Southeast Asia, cumin seeds are still boiled to make tea, which is traditionally used to address digestive issues or relieve the effects of coughs and sore throats.
The ayurvedic system of traditional medicine in India still makes use of the cumin seeds in many remedies. The energetics of Cumin are as follows: Its taste (rasa) is pungent and bitter. Its energy (virya) is slightly warming, and its post digestive effect (vipaka) is pungent. (http://blog.tattvasherbs.com/2009/12/28/the-therapeutic-properties-and-usages-of-five-common-spices-coriander-cumin-fennel-ginger-and-turmeric/)
Cumin is rich in iron and contains antioxidants. However, typically ingested amounts do not have much of an immediate dietary impact. (http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/233). Though, forty years from now, I’m sure I’ll have consumed enough cumin to find piece of mind in knowing that it’s nutritionally benevolent. There are several health benefits associated with cumin as well (http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/seed-and-nut/health-benefits-of-cumin.html).
It is typically grown in the Middle East (indigenous to Egypt) and India and most supplies come from the Mediterranean. It has yet to take hold in most home gardens. Probably because it is believed that it is difficult to grow in colder climates. However, this is not the case. If you’re adventurous with your green thumb,then I suggest you give cumin a try.
Cumin should be sown in small pots, filled with light soil and plunged into a very moderate to hot bed to bring up the plants. The plants will flower very well and will probably perfect their seeds if the season is warm.
The plants are threshed when the fruit is ripe (flowers have died) and the seeds dried.
Raspberry Mango Coconut Smoothie
2 cups fresh sliced mango
1 cup fresh raspberries
1-1.5 cup lite coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp agave nectar or brown rice syrup – adjust to taste
1/2 tsp rose water – cooling and anti-inflammatory!
Water – adjust to desired consistency
Add everything to a blender. Blend until creamy. Drink at once!