What is Cuminum?

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  • Written By: Mandi R. Hall
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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Cuminum is a plant otherwise known by its full name, Cuminum cyminum. It is indigenous to east India and the eastern Mediterranean. A flowering plant that belongs to the apiaceae family, cumin is related to the parsley family. The plant produces seeds that result in the spice cumin. The spice is used in a variety of dishes, including Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, as well as curries.

Referred to by many derivatives of its full name, cuminum has been around since ancient times. Widely available across the map in modern times, cumin was first introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese settlers. Even today, cumin spices are most often used in southern states such as Texas.

Cuminum was used as both a spice and a bartering tool in ancient Egypt. It is mentioned in the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. Popular in Europe throughout most of the Middle Ages, today it is known as a common, everyday spice in many countries.

In countries outside of America, it is not uncommon to have a container of cumin available on the table during meals. In fact, some chefs contend that cumin is one of the most popular spices or flavorings in the world, alongside salt and pepper. With a peppery, almost nutty taste, cuminum adds a bit of a kick to any dish. Some say the spice tastes reminiscent of campfires or smoke.


Often compared to caraway seeds, cumin seeds are lighter in color. The seeds are an orangey brown and often appear to be faintly striped. Cuminum seeds are the same shape as rice, though they have a long ridge going through their center. They are also spicier or hotter in taste. That being said, many international cookbooks use cumin and coriander as interchangeable ingredients.

Cuminum can be purchased wholesale in the form of dried seeds. It may also be purchased in commercially manufactured containers of ground or powdered cumin. Many companies also sell dried cumin seeds, though many foodies contend that buying it fresh is always better.

Cuminum is known to have quite a bit of iron in it. However, one would have to ingest a lot more cumin than would taste right in order to enjoy its true benefits. To enjoy the taste to the fullest, though, a person can lightly roast whole cumin seeds before adding them to a recipe. Heating them up in this manner allows the smoky flavor to be more pronounced. Cumin is a main ingredient in chili powder and curry powder.


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