No food lover is oblivious to cumin's distinct smell and woody taste that makes this spice a must-have in the pantry. Whether you are making crispy Pakoras in one corner of the world or making a chimichanga in the other, cumin seeds will be the stars of these lip-smacking delicacies.
Cumin holds a special place in the world's most famous cuisines like the Mediterranean, Indian and Mexican. Let’s get to know the cumin spice.
What Is Cumin Seed?
Cumin is a seed belonging to the plant Cuminum cyminum, which is a member of the parsley family. The seeds are native to the Middle East and are also called dried seeds of the Cuminum cyminum herb. The seeds have been in use for thousands of years as cumin use by ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks is well-known.
Like other plants, cumin plant also loves a moist and warm climate coupled with loamy textured soil. The plant then produces tiny bunches of mauve or white-colored flowers that later grow pods containing the seeds. Once the seed pods turn brown, the cumin spice is all set to be harvested and sent on its journey to our kitchens.
You can easily find cumin seeds in your grocery store in either a whole seed or ground form. You can also get your hands on cumin powder. Boasting an earthy and woody flavor, several people categorize cumin seeds as a versatile spice that packs a punch of sweetness and bitterness.
Nutritional Benefits Of Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are rich in various minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. Thus, there are several benefits of cumin. What makes them really stand out is their quality of being a rich source of antioxidants. This is how they help in reducing inflammation and avoiding oxidative damage in the bodies.
Having a high concentration of potassium, a mineral that aids in maintaining the body's electrolyte balance, cumin seeds are a heart patient's tonic. Not only does it assist in the regular production of cells, but it also helps in maintaining heart rate and blood pressure.
These incredible seeds are also rich in essential oils that help to stimulate a person's salivary glands. This leads to better digestion of food. So if you have any digestive issues, include some cumin recipes in your diet.
How Does Cumin Taste?
The cumin's earthy tinge of peppery and warm flavor and scent is an integral part of many dishes. Not only does it enjoy a prominent place in our favorite spicy dishes, but it is also a star ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisines like hummus, Indian curries, and Mexican dishes such as tacos. It helps bring out the flavor in meat and adds that extra punch of taste in our vegetarian dishes.
So what does cumin taste like on its own? Is cumin spicy or bitter?
As mentioned before, cumin boasts an earthy and warm flavor and scent, but it coupled with both bitterness and sweetness. If you really want to feel the punch of taste that cumin seeds hold, crush a seed in your teeth. You can also feel a tinge of menthol that resembles the taste of fennel seeds.
If you're looking to achieve an optimum flavor level, the seeds first need to be toasted to set off their earthy aroma.
How To Toast Cumin Seeds To Perfection?
It is entirely your choice whether you grind your beloved cumin seeds or use them whole. No matter your preference, it is always a good idea to toast them before you embark on your cooking quest.
So, how to toast cumin seeds? If you are someone who is totally oblivious to this whole ordeal, fear not. It's easier than it sounds.
Start by placing your whole cumin seeds in a dry pan or skillet while ensuring that the heat is low. Toast the seeds while making sure you continuously stir them around. As soon as their fragrance hits your nose, remove the pan or skillet from the stove and take the spices out in a bowl to prevent them from burning. We don't want to waste a good batch of cumin seeds now, do we?
Once you have your batch of freshly toasted cumin seeds, you can always grind them into a powder if that's your preference.
Cooking With Cumin Seeds
Whether your dish requires whole cumin seeds or ground cumin, you will be incorporating them differently in your recipes. When using whole cumin seeds, make sure you add them at an early stage in your recipe. It is best to add cumin seeds to hot oil, which will instantly release its flavor and aroma.
On the other hand, cumin powder is an integral part of many spice blends such as curry powder. It is mostly used in different marinades and applied to chicken or other meat before it makes its way onto the stove.
How To Properly Store Cumin Seeds?
So how do you safely store away your precious cumin seeds without the fear of them losing their taste and aroma?
You will be happy to know that you can safely tuck them away in your freezer for a long duration, and they will never lose the flavor. If you aren't really a freezer person, you can store them in your pantry, where they can stay fragrant and flavorful for a good 3-4 years.
On the other hand, ground cumin needs to be stored in a dark, cool place, and it will last you for six months.
Cumin seed is an essential spice that enjoys a prominent place in several dishes all over the world. Whether it is lentil soup, cumin, and curry, a Mexican fajita, or a Turkish Hummus, none of these dishes can reach their lip-smacking taste without this flavorful spice.