One of the special spice known for their distinctive aroma, cumin seeds are popular in North African, Middle Eastern, Western Chinese, Indian, Cuban and Northern Mexican cuisines. The spice is native to middle-east Asian region, and now grown all over the world for its flavorful seeds.
The plant is the small flowering herbaceous plant belonging to the family of apiaceae of the genus of; Cuminum, and scientifically known as Cuminum cyminum.
The cumin plant flourishes well in sandy, fertile soil along with hot summer weather conditions. It bears small, gray-yellow colored, oblong shaped seeds with vertical ridges on its outer surface and single centrally placed seed that closely resemble caraway seeds in appearance.
Distinctive flavor and strong, warm aroma of cumin’s is due to its essential oils. The main constituent and important aroma compound is cuminaldehyde (4-isopropylbenzaldehyde).
Health benefits of cumin seeds
- Cumin seeds contain numerous phyto-chemicals that are known to have antioxidant, carminative and anti-flatulent properties. The seeds are an excellent source of dietary fiber.
- Its seeds contain many health benefiting essential oils such as cuminaldehyde (4-isopropylbenzaldehyde), pyrazines, 2-methoxy-3-sec-butylpyrazine, 2-ethoxy-3-isopropylpyrazine, and 2-methoxy-3-methylpyrazine.
- The active principles in the cumin may increase the motility of the gastro-intestinal tract as well as increase the digestion power by increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions.
- This spice is an excellent source of minerals like iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. zinc is a co-factor in many enzymes that regulate growth and development, sperm generation, digestion and nucleic acid synthesis. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful anti-oxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
- It also contains very good amounts of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, and other vital anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin C.
- The seeds are also rich source of many flavonoid phenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes, zeaxanthin, and lutein.
How to Select and Store
Whenever possible, buy whole cumin seeds instead of cumin powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly, and the seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle.
Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried cumin since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.
Cumin seeds and cumin powder should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground cumin will keep for about six months, while the whole seeds will stay fresh for about one year.
How to Enjoy
Tips for Using Cumin
To bring out the fullness of their aroma and flavor, lightly roast whole cumin seeds before using them in a recipe.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
- The combination of cumin, black pepper and honey is considered to be an aphrodisiac in certain middle Eastern countries. Whether or not this potion will actually inspire Cupid’s arrows, it is certainly a tasty combination that can be used to flavor vegetables, chicken and fish dishes.
- Make a cup of warming and soothing cumin tea by boiling seeds in water and then letting them steep for 8-10 minutes.
- As the taste of cumin is a great complement to the hearty flavor of legumes such as lentils, garbanzo beans and black beans, add this spice when preparing a recipe with these foods.
- Take plain brown rice and magically give it special pizzazz by adding cumin seeds, dried apricots and almonds.
- Seasoning healthy sautéed vegetables with cumin will give them a North African flair.
Here are some of my healthy recipes that feature Cumin:
- http:// nutrition-and-you.com