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  • Michelle Schwartz

All About Cumin

Cumin is one hard-working spice. Warm, nutty, spicy, aromatic, and earthy, it can easily take center stage. It can also just as easily serve a unifying role, melding diverse flavors. No wonder it's the second most popular spice worldwide, after pepper.




Native to the Mediterranean and long cultivated in China, India, and the Middle East, cumin seeds are the small dried fruit of the annual herbaceous plant Cuminum cyminum. It is related to parsley and dill, with similarly slender branches and leaves. India is the main producer of it and also consumes about 2/3 of the world's annual 300,000 tons that is hand picked!


Cumin Trivia:

The Romans used cumin as an alternative for pepper.


Roman emperor Antoninus Pius was nicknamed "the cumin splitter" because he was frugal in his personal life in order to help provide money for social projects.


The Egyptians used cumin to season meats, fish, and stews and to mummify the dead.





Cumin is extensively used in Mexican, Indian, North African, Cuban, Brazilian, Western Chinese, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, and Spanish cuisines. Western cooks will use it to flavor fruit pies and cookies, along with other spices.





Other ways to use Cumin:

-Stir into soups and stews, especially those containing beans, meat, or poultry.

-Add it to the cooking water for beans and grains.

-Include a pinch in salad dressings.

-Add to BBQ sauces and meat marinades.

-Stir into tomato sauce.

-Mix cumin into meat loaf ingredients.

-Sprinkle on eggs during scrambling.

-Include in sausage ingredients.

-Add to eggplant or casseroles.

-Add to sandwich spreads.

-Stir into cottage cheese and cheese dips.


Cumin Salad Dressing

Perfect on wild edibles and garden-variety greens.

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. onion powder

2 tbsp. ground cumin

2 tbsp. nutritional yeast

1/2 cup olive oil

Blend garlic, water, and vinegar in a blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

Makes about 1 cup.




Chef's Tip:

Toast whole cumin seeds (as well as the powder) before adding to recipes. It will enhance the earthy flavor and help reduce any bitterness in the spice. Simply toast it in a dry frying pan, stirring constantly, for a few minutes.

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