Table of Contents
What is Cumin?
Cumin (AKA Jeera) is a flowering plant that has been used as a spice for centuries. It is classified as a member of the Apiaceae family, and you use the dried seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant to add flavor to a dish or to compliment the natural sweetness of food.
This plant has a slender stem that grows eight to twelve inches tall and has several small branches that all grow to a uniform height. The plant's leaves grow long and slender with thread-like leaflets forming. You'll see small pink or white flowers open on this plant, and the seeds are oblong shaped with yellow or brown colors and ridges.
Where Does Cumin Grow?
The cumin plant is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and east of India. India is the main producer of cumin, and this country produces over 70 percent of the world's cumin supply. Syria, Iran, and Turkey are the other three major regions where you'll find native cumin being grown.
This plant is very drought-tolerant, and it thrives in tropical or subtropical weather conditions. Ideally, you'll find it in a Mediterranean climate as it needs between 100 and 120 days of sun and heat to grow properly. India's growing season is traditionally from October until early December, and the harvest begins in early February. Unfortunately, cumin is prone to diseases and pests so each crop must be carefully monitored and harvested at peak times.
What Does Cumin Taste Like?
This particular spice has a very strong smell and taste. You'll find that cumin has a slightly hot, sharp, and bittersweet taste on its own. Interestingly, there are three types of cumin seeds available, and they vary in their oil content, shading, and flavor depending on which one you choose to use. You can pick from Iranian, Indian, or Middle Eastern cumin and you'll get a different flavor profile with each one.
When you use this spice in small amounts, it works to enhance the flavor profile of the dish you add it to, and it can bring out the sweet flavors of the dish or food. It can also add a small kick of heat, which makes it the perfect ingredient in many Indian and Middle Eastern foods.
What is Cumin Good For?
Cumin has many uses as both a cooking spice and for medicinal purposes. You can find this spice in several French cheeses and bread, as well as in Mexican or Tex-Mex style chili powders. Either the whole seeds or a powder of ground cumin seed works well in many recipes, and it is prized for added an earthy or warm taste to food.
You will find this spice in many soups and stews, or in chili and curry. Additionally, it can be used to pickle items and found in some pastries. Several cultures use this spice for medicinal purposes as they believe that drinking a tea of boiled cumin seeds will help aid digestive issues or as a detoxing agent.
Are Cumin/Curcumin/Cilantro/Turmeric the Same Thing?
The short answer is no. Curcumin is an active chemical that comes from the root of the turmeric plant, while cumin comes from seeds. Additionally, both of these spices are used to help flavor curry powder, but cumin has a sharper flavor profile.
The Cilantro plant produces seeds that people grind down into coriander. Both of these spices come from different plants, and they have different flavor profiles. Cilantro is known for its slightly sweet taste, and cumin is known for its slightly bittersweet taste.
As for cumin and turmeric, they are also different spices. Turmeric is the dried and ground portion of the Turmeric plant, and it is part of the ginger family. Turmeric is also well-known for its bright yellow color, and it's slightly diluted taste profile while cumin has a bittersweet bite.
What Spices Complement Cumin?
Cumin pairs very well with several spices to create a multi-layer flavor experience in a dish. If you're trying to make a rub for lamb or beef, cumin goes very well with garlic and chili powder. The slightly bittersweet taste of the cumin will balance out the heat from the chili powder, and they will enhance the garlic's flavor.
You can also blend cumin with coriander because the cumin will bring out the nutty taste of the coriander. Their slightly hot elements will blend well, and they won't overpower your dish leaving you with a beautifully spiced finished product.
Can Cumin Make You Sick?
Although there hasn't been an in-depth study of cumin causing people to get sick, there are a few side effects that have been linked to consuming this herb. It is used to lower blood sugar, so if you're a diabetic or on blood-sugar-lowering medications, be cautious if you eat it. It could cause your blood sugar to fall too low in a short amount of time.
Additionally, cumin is used for medicinal purposes as a clotting agent, so people who take blood thinners or certain diuretics should be very careful if they take cumin supplements or eat a lot of cumin-spiced dishes. You'll also find aflatoxin B1 in cumin, and this has been linked to liver cancer.
Can Cumin go Bad?
Once you realize that most of your traditional spices like cumin have gone through an extensive drying process, you realize it can take them years to lose their flavor. Spices usually have a few year shelf life as it is, and cumin is good for around two to three additional years past the expiration date.
Expired spices like cumin most likely won't make you sick if you choose to use them, even if they're years out of date. However, you may noticed a marked decrease in their potency, as they tend to lose a lot of their flavors as they get older and older. This can make it harder to gauge how much you need in your dishes.
Can Cumin Help With Weight Loss?
Recently, a study was done to see if cumin helps with weight loss. During this study, two groups of women were put on restricted calorie diets, and one group was given two grams of cumin each day. By the end of the study, the women who ate the cumin every day lost almost five pounds more on average than the women who didn't eat the cumin.
This spice is very low in calories, and it contains roughly 16 calories in two teaspoons, and this makes it an excellent way to add spice to your food without adding a lot of additional calories. It can speed up your metabolism because cumin contains a lot of iron. This means you'll burn more calories and lose weight quicker if you add cumin to your daily eating routine.
Can Cumin Get You High?
Cumin seeds have been reported to have narcotic properties when you consume large amounts of them in a short period of time. They have addictive properties that can make you want to eat more of them as your body gets used to having it, just like several narcotics.
People have claimed to experience things like drowsiness, nausea, and mental clouding after they've eaten a lot of cumin. These side effects tend to get worse as your system works to flush all of the cumin out, but you'll eventually feel better after a few days.
Can Cumin Cause Migraines?
As this spice has a potent smell and a bittersweet taste, it can be a migraine trigger for people who are sensitive to smells. Cumin may also interact with your blood vessels, particularly the blood vessels that supply blood to your brain, and this can trigger a slight headache to a full-blown migraine in many people.
However, you should also note that migraines caused by cumin are typically seen in people who are prone to sensitivities. It can take weeks to figure out what your migraine triggers are, and the easiest way to do this is to slowly eliminate foods and spices from your diet until you figure out which ones you can and can't tolerate.
Can Cumin Cause Hives?
True spice allergies are rare, but there are people who suffer from them. For these people, it isn't unusual to see them break out into hives after they're eaten the offending spice. So yes, cumin can cause hives or an allergic reaction, but it is a rare occurrence.
People can either have an allergy to cumin or a hypersensitivity, and many people will find that it's not just cumin that makes them break out in hives. Many people will have a cross-sensitivity to other spices in the cumin family like anise, coriander, dill, fennel, or parsley.
Can You Eat Cumin While Pregnant?
You can eat cumin throughout your pregnancy. However, it is a good idea to regulate your intake and not eat them on a constant basis. Cumin can help to reduce any inflammation and bloating that you may be experiencing with your pregnancy, and this can make you more comfortable.
However, in concentrated doses cumin can be considered an abortifacient. This means that this spice can encourage uterine contractions, and this has the possibility of causing a miscarriage. You should always talk to your doctor before you start any new herbal supplements or if you're changing your diet while you're pregnant.
Will Cumin Hurt Dogs?
If you feed your dog large amounts of cumin, you could trigger gas or digestive upset. However, this would have to be large amounts of a short period of time. Cumin can be beneficial to your dog if you feed it to them in small amounts.
In small consistent amounts, cumin can help to regulate your dog's digestive system, and it can prevent them from becoming constipated. Additionally, cumin has been used as a supplement to give older dogs a boost of energy and to help keep their immune systems healthy and functioning. You should always talk to your veterinarian before introducing new spices into your dog's food as they will be able to recommend a safe dosage.
When to Plant Cumin Seeds
As most cumin plants are grown in Mediterranean climates, the tropical, hot summers are excellent times to plant cumin. As we stated before, cumin is sown in India beginning in October and running through early December. It is then carefully watched because this crop is susceptible to disease and parasites that can make their way quickly through the entire crop.
However, Syria and Iran have slightly different schedules for sowing and harvesting their cumin crops. You'll usually see cumin sown in Syria and Iran beginning in the middle of November and going to the middle of December or even January.
When to Harvest Cumin
Once the cumin crop reaches its peak and it's ready to be harvested, the process goes quickly. In India, they normally begin harvesting their cumin crops in early to mid-February. Iran and Syria follow a slightly different schedule when it comes to their cumin harvest. In these countries, they begin harvesting the crop in late June and early July.