Ground cumin comes from cumin seeds. Its plant is related to parsley, dill, and caraway. You can buy cumin in seed form or ground into a powder.
Cumin has been used for more than 5000 years and not just as a spice. the Egyptians used it to flavor their food, yes, but they also used it for mummification purposes! Cumin was regarded by the Romans and Greeks as an essential spice. Cumin was also believed to promote love and fidelity back in the middle ages and it was given to newlyweds, and to soldiers who were often sent to war with a loaf of freshly baked cumin seed bread.
The cumin seed obviously spread from ancient Egypt and Rome to the rest of the world. You can hardly enjoy Mexican, Indian or other Middle Eastern dishes without the peppery and slightly smoky flavor of cumin.
But there’s more to this spice than just its taste.
Cumin seeds are an excellent source of iron and manganese. They’re also a good source of magnesium and calcium. Cumin aids in digestion and it even has anti-carcinogenic properties—it has been shown to prevent liver and stomach tumors in laboratory tests.
Who would think that a simple spice could be so good for you?
And don’t forget, it’s also delicious.
Ideas for enjoying cumin
• Boil cumin seeds and let them steep for ten minutes for a nice warm, soothing tea
• Spice up some brown rice with almonds, dried apricots, and roasted cumin seeds
• Sprinkle cumin on lentils or chickpeas for a yummy and easy vegetarian meal
• Mix cumin with honey and black pepper (a concoction that is considered an aphrodisiac in some Middle Eastern countries!) and put it on your sweetheart’s chicken for a special meal (it can’t hurt!)
Shopping and storing tips
If you can source whole cumin seeds (organic please!), you should buy them since the powdered form of cumin can lose its flavor quickly. All you need to grind cumin seeds is a simple mortar and pestle.
Keep cumin powder or cumin seeds in a sealed glass container in a dark, cool, and dry place. The seeds will last for a year before losing their freshness while the powder will last about six months.
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