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You could say cumin seeds are the unsung heroes of the spice world. They never quite take center stage but offer a beautiful supporting role.
Believed to have originated in the Mediterranean, cumin seeds are used to perk up everything from Persian stews to Indian rice dishes, Mexican beans, soups and even beverages (such as salted lassi).
Cumin Seeds: Interesting Facts
Did you know cumin seeds are rich in iron? They also contains manganese, an essential mineral that affects numerous functions like blood clotting, calcium absorption and brain function.
Cumin seeds also aid in digestion and have a diuretic effect. They also contain anti-carcinogenic properties.
Fun fact: cumin was mentioned in both the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:27) and the New Testament (Matthew 23:23) of the Bible.
Cumin Seeds vs. Ground Cumin
For maximum flavor, it is best to purchase whole cumin seeds and grind them at home as need. How often you’ll grind them will depend on how much you’ll be using the spice.
To grind them: dry roast a small amount of cumin seeds in a pan, allow to cool then grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
Toasted cumin seeds have an earthy flavor but once the spice has been ground it develops more floral notes.
How To Cook with Cumin Seeds
In Latin America, ground cumin is widely used in stews, bean dishes and for making fillings for dishes like empanadas or tamales. Cumin is especially delicious in refried beans, chili and tortilla soup (try this recipe).
Cooks in India favor the use of whole cumin seeds, which are usually tempered in oil along with other spices at the beginning of the cooking process.
Cumin seeds perk up a wide range of Indian vegetarian dishes including this colorful gobi matar (cauliflower and peas).
According to the Indian science of Ayurveda, cumin seeds have a cooling effect in the body. Thus they are routinely added to summer drinks for a refreshing taste. Jeera water (aka cumin water) is one of many popular drinks. Learn how to make it:
In the Middle East, cumin seeds are enjoyed in a variety of ways including aromatic rice dishes, succulent kebabs and delicious breads. Give this Persian cumin rice and chicken dish a try: