9 practical facts about cumin

An essential ingredient of many spicy dishes from all over the world, cumin has been used for centuries. Here are some useful facts about growing it, cooking with it and using it as a herbal medicine.

9 practical facts about cumin

1. Medicinal properties

Usable parts: Seeds

  • Cumin is akin to anise ( Pimpinella anisum ) and caraway ( Carum carvi ). They are similar in that they affect the digestive system.
  • It can be taken in case of indigestion, diarrhea and colic or to stimulate appetite.
  • In the West, it is used primarily in veterinary medicine to prevent gas.
  • In India, it is applied locally, ground and mixed with lemon juice, for treatment of poisonous bites.
  • In Ayurvedic medicine, it is known to help the absorption of other herbs and to improve liver function. It is reputed to increase lactation and reduce nausea during pregnancy.
  • For proper use, consult your doctor or herbalist.

2. Culinary properties

  • Cumin is an essential ingredient in many curries, chutneys, sauces, soups and prepared meats or cold cuts, such as Portuguese sausages.
  • It is often found in lamb dishes in the Middle East, and is well suited to vegetables, as well as in falafel (small bean fritters and chickpea).
  • Some cheeses such as Dutch leyden and Munster are flavoured with cumin.
  • Zeera pani is a refreshing Indian drink with cumin and tamarind water.
  • For maximum flavour, roast the seeds in a pan.
  • Have a light hand with cumin, because it easily takes over other flavours.
  • Less than 5 grams (1 teaspoon) is sufficient in a dish for four people.

3. Gardening

  • Cumin is a small, fine, half-hardy annual plant of the parsley family, originally from North Africa and Southwest Asia.
  • It measures only 15 to 30 centimetres (6-12 inches), with finely divided bright leaves, and white to pink flowers on small compound umbels.

4. Varieties

  • There is no improved variety of cumin in North America.
  • Black cumin ( Nigella sativa ) differs in appearance and uses, with black seeds with a complex fruity, peppery taste.
  • It is related to the ornamental variety, Nigella damascus ( N. damascena ), a very popular annual in Quebec.
  • Its seeds are used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine.

5. Location 

  • Cumin prefers a well-drained, fertile soil, preferably sandy and in full sun.

6. Multiplication

  • Sow the seeds in spring at 13-18 ° C (55-64 ° F).
  • In areas with temperate cool climate, put the seedlings under glass in spring and prick them when they are large enough.

7. Care

  • When the seedlings have hardened, transplant them in the sun, spacing the plants 8 to 10 centimetres (3-4 inches) apart, or grouped in rows, when night temperatures are above 10 ° C (64 ° F).
  • Weed regularly.
  • The plants bloom in June-July, and the seeds are ready 3 to 4 months after planting.

8. Pests and diseases

  • Cumin is susceptible to aphids, fusarium, powdery mildew and Alternaria.

9. Harvest and conservation

  • Cut the plants as soon as the seeds are brown.
  • Dry them hanging in a warm place, in bags or sheets of paper to collect the seeds.
  • They keep for a year in glass jars, protected from light.
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