Cumin is a very popular spice used in many recipes found around the world. Cumin is a dried and ground seed from the fruit of an herb plant in the parsley family.
Fun fact! Cumin was also used as an ingredient for preservation during the justification process of a deceased body during the times of the Ancient Egyptians.
Growing the cumin plant
Cumin is primarily grown in China, India, and Mexico. They are also some of the highest consumers of the spice. It is a tropical crop that requires warm temperatures in order to thrive. If the climate is too cold then the leaves of the plant will change from green to purple. Alternatively, if the temperatures rise and are too hot then the plant will not grow properly (might be stunted in growth) and it will also begin to ripen prematurely.
It is best to grow cumin from seed and they should be down during the spring months when the temperatures are relatively low. However, if you live in a cooler climate you should consider starting your cumin seeds in an indoor herb garden and then they can be transplanted to an outdoor garden once the temperatures have increased to a steady 60 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The seeds require a well-fertilized and well-drained soil. Cumin seeds do not need to be planted very deep (about ¼ inch into the soil should do it) but they should be given about two feet between rows to prevent crowding.
Harvesting your cumin plant should be done about 120 days after playing or when the white or pink flowers bloom. Harvesting should always be done during the morning hours. The seeds can then be extracted by hand, dried, and ground.
The benefits of adding cumin to your recipes
Cumin is believed to have various health benefits, though some can be argued as “not scientifically proven”. These potential health benefits include:
- Provides the body with iron
- Contains antioxidants
- May help control blood sugar for diabetics
- May have anti-cancer-fighting properties
- May aid in weight loss
- May also help lower high cholesterol
How can cumin be used?
Cumin seeds can be harvested, dried and used whole or dried and ground into a cumin powder. It can then be added as an ingredient in nearly any recipe! A delicious example is provided below (original recipe from www.realsimple.com).
Cumin Chicken With Black Beans
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 3 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 1 1/4 cups cherry tomato halves
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- kosher salt and black pepper
- Place the chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with a mallet to ½-inch thickness. Combine the cumin with the cayenne and rub over the chicken.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chicken for 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board.
- Return the skillet with the pan drippings to medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, and 3 tablespoons of water and cook stirring, 1 or 2 minutes, until just heated through. Remove from heat.
- Toss with the scallions, cilantro, and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Slice the chicken and arrange it on top of the beans.