A Savory Spice with Incredible Health Benefits.
Cumin is a seasoning that flavors many of the world’s best and most beloved dishes, from curries to falafel to chili. The spice combines well with savory dishes, complementing umami and spicy flavors, and it is a kitchen staple throughout India, Southeast Asia, North Africa, the Middle East and Mexico. Not only are cumin seeds a valuable ingredient, it also has an array of health benefits, and is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine.
What Is Cumin?
Cumin is the seed of the Cuminum cyminum plant, a flowering herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family, the same genus as parsley and fennel. Originally cultivated in the Middle East, the plant is now grown all over the world, thriving particularly in regions that have a long summer growing season. The cumin seeds, which are thin and ridged like caraway seeds, grow inside pods that are taken from the cumin plant after they have dried and turned brown. The seeds are then removed from the pods. They can be used whole or ground into a yellowish-brown powder.
What Does It Taste Like?
The flavor of cumin comes from its essential oil, cuminaldehyde, and different types of cumin have different quantities of this oil, which can change the flavor profile. In general, the flavor of cumin is strong and distinctive but combines well with other seasonings to bring out subtle flavors in a dish. The spice has been described as earthy, nutty, bittersweet, slighty hot, peppery, lemony and sweet. Cumin has also been compared to coriander, which can be used as a substitute for cumin in a pinch.
Most cumin used in the United States is the seed of the cumin plant. Other varieties are also used in India and the Middle East. Black cumin, also known as jeera in India, comes from a different plant in the Apiaceae family, and it has a sharper, more bitter taste than seeds from the cumin plant. Black cumin seeds, another variety, are used in Persian dishes, and they have a sweeter aroma and taste.
Cumin has an excellent nutritional profile and is frequently touted as a superfood. It is rich in anti-oxidant phyto-chemicals, fiber, vitamins and minerals, especially iron and manganese. Cumin benefits can include the following:
Cumin is known to stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, which can speed the digestive process, and increases the release of bile from the liver.
Lower risk of cancer
Cumin is rich in anti-oxidants that fight the free radicals associated with developing cancer and many other diseases.
Reduced damage from diabetes
Cumin has been shown to reduce the quantity of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These compounds are associated with some of the most serious complications of diabetes, like loss of sight and kidney damage.
Other health benefits may include lowering cholesterol, promoting weight loss or healthy weight management, fighting inflammation and lowering stress. In addition, cumin is great source of dietary iron, a mineral that most people don’t consume enough of.
How To Use Cumin In Cooking
If you want to cook with cumin, you can either buy the whole seed or buy it pre-ground. Both forms are available from Nomads Marketplace. Using seeds gives you a few more options, such as roasting the seed before grinding it to enhance the flavor or using the seed to flavor cooking oil. The following are some of the most popular uses of cumin around the world.
In Indian recipes, cumin is used in many different dishes. In powdered form, it’s blended with other spices to make garam masala, a seasoning similar to curry powder and widely used in Indian recipes. Some of the most popular Indian recipes with cumin include vindaloo, butter chicken and aloo gobi.
In the Middle East, cumin is used as a seasoning for shawarma, which is roasted meat cooked on a spit. It is also a common ingredient in the Moroccan spice blend “ras el hanout” or “best of the shop,” a seasoning that is popular throughout Northern Africa. Other uses of cumin in Middle Eastern recipes include Persian rice, hummus, and couscous dishes.
In Latin American cuisine, cumin is used to flavor black beans, red enchilada sauce, and meat stews. In Tex-Mex cuisine, cumin is typically blended with chili powder and used as the primary seasoning in chili con carne, the popular stew made of ground meat, beans, and tomatoes.
Once cumin has been ground, the flavor will stay strong for about six months. To preserve the flavor, store ground cumin in an airtight container and keep it cool, dry, and away from direct light.