Cumin (/ˈkjuːmɨn/ or UK /ˈkʌmɨn/, US /ˈkuːmɨn/; sometimes spelled cummin; Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds (each one contained within a fruit, which is dried) are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form.
The English “cumin” derives from the Old English cymen (or Old French cumin), from Latin cuminum, which is the latinisation of the Greek κύμινον (kuminon), cognate with Hebrew כמון (kammon) and Arabic كمون (kammun). Forms of this word are attested in several ancient Semitic languages, including kamūnu in Akkadian. The ultimate source is the Sumerian word gamun. The earliest attested form of the word κύμινον (kuminon) is the Mycenaean Greek ku-mi-no, written in Linear B syllabic script.
Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. The cumin plant grows to 30–50 cm (0.98–1.6 ft) tall and is harvested by hand. It is an annual herbaceous plant, with a slender, branched stem 20–30 cm tall. The leaves are 5–10 cm long, pinnate or bipinnate, with thread-like leaflets. The flowers are small, white or pink, and borne in umbels. The fruit is a lateral fusiform or ovoid achene 4–5 mm long, containing a single seed. Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color, like other members of the umbelliferae family such as caraway, parsley and dill.
Cumin has been in use since ancient times. Seeds excavated at the Syrian site Tell ed-Der have been dated to the second millennium BC. They have also been reported from several New Kingdom levels of ancient Egyptian archaeological sites.
Originally cultivated in Iran and the Mediterranean region, cumin is mentioned in the Bible in both the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:27) and the New Testament (Matthew 23:23). The ancient Greeks kept cumin at the dining table in its own container (much as pepper is frequently kept today), and this practice continues in Morocco. Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine. It was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. There are several different types of cumin but the most famous ones are black and green cumin which are both used in Persian cuisine.
Today, the plant is mostly grown in China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Mexico, Chile and India. Since cumin is often used as part of birdseed and exported to many countries, the plant can occur as a rare casual in many territories including Britain. Cumin occurs as a rare casual in the British Isles, mainly in Southern England; but the frequency of its occurrence has declined greatly. According to the Botanical Society of the British Isles’ most recent Atlas, only one record has been confirmed since 2000.
In India, cumin has been used for millennia as a traditional ingredient of innumerable kormas, masalas, soups and other spiced gravies.In Sanskrit, Cumin is known as jiraka. Jira means “that which helps digestion”. As per Ayurveda cumin seeds promote digestion and also enhance sexual vigour. It is a stimulant, thus works on erectile dysfunctions. Cumin also increases strength. It could be because of its property of stimulating metabolic digestion which helps in a thorough absorption of micro nutrients from the food. It also enhances taste of the food and alleviates Kapha. Cumin helps in lacto genesis so it could be given in small quantity to lactating mothers.